When I first started working at Walrus Oil, Dave was quick to tell me that we had a waste problem. As a business, it’s challenging to responsibly handle the quantity of recyclables and actual waste that passes through a facility. He told me about a time he drove to the city landfill to discard some empty barrels. When he arrived at the gate he was guided up a huge mountain of trash, so high it took a couple of minutes to drive to the summit. He was directed to back his truck up to the ledge and then he watched as a few empty barrels rolled down to their eternal resting place. Looking out over the sea of rubbish he was so sickened that he vowed to reduce his business’s waste. When he drove to the exit gate “that will be $20” the man said. “I just paid $20 to help destroy my planet” Dave thought. It was a lesson learned.
Since then, we’ve done a lot of brainstorming and a little bit of improving. The main struggle was what to do with empty steel drums after we’ve turned all the raw material into that Walrus magic. A 55 gallon drum makes a pretty big impact on one’s conscience if not dealt with properly, not to mention the real estate a dozen of them take up in the shop. We now have some local folks willing to take them off our hands who can turn them into other useful items such as wood stoves, grills, planters, and even furniture.
When I came on board I started personally filling my car with our used cardboard boxes and delivering them to the county recycling facility where they are welcome. We’ve also started setting up recycling bins around the shop, such as an aluminum can box to collect the mass quantities of energy drinks it takes to blast out all the cutting board oil our amazing customers demand. At the current size of Walrus Oil this solution works, and as we grow we’re determined to bolster our commitment to being responsible stewards of this planet.
As I was making phone calls to the local recycling facilities and reading around on the internet I uncovered a few things worth sharing.
Around 30% of collected recycling is unusable because of contaminants. When tossing your recyclables into recycle bins, it turns out it’s pretty important to do that mindfully; making sure to wash out plastic containers before placing them in the recycle bin keeps them from contaminating other recyclables like paper and cardboard. When items are soiled they get rejected and tossed into the landfill, unfortunately.
Also, when it comes to common paper and cardboard items, some of it just isn’t recyclable. If it has any food or grease on it or is coated with wax, it can’t be recycled. Think pizza boxes, to-go coffee cups, and napkins. Don’t worry too much about removing packing tape, that gets filtered out in processing, but if you want extra magic unicorn points then you go for it!