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Environmental non-profit ramps up recycling in Miami Beach

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The following is a recent article by staff member of ECOMB, Raul Cabera.

Is your favorite Miami Beach restaurant recycling? It should be. A 1992 Miami-Dade County law mandated that all residential and commercial establishments recycle, but the 1992 law was rarely enforced. The result? Business owners in this County have viewed recycling as optional.

A 2012 Miami Beach Commercial Recycling Ordinance has changed that option into a responsibility for businesses on the beach. On July 1st, 2014, Miami Beach began to enforce the 2012 Ordinance that requires every commercial establishment in Miami Beach to recycle. That includes: restaurants, bars, retail outlets, office spaces, and condominium associations with 9 units or more. Non-compliance results in fines from $350 to $2,500.

The 2012 Ordinance that is increasing sustainability in Miami Beach originated from six months of research carried out in 2009 by David Goldman, an environmental law intern, and Luiz Rodrigues of the Environmental Coalition of Miami & the Beaches (ECOMB). Back in 2009, City of Miami Beach officials believed that they lacked the authority to mandate commercial recycling in the city. Goldman and Rodrigues, ECOMB’s executive director, reviewed state and city laws and spoke with Tallahassee government officials regarding commercial recycling policies. The investigation revealed that the City of Miami Beach was, in fact, permitted to enact legislation that mandated and enforced commercial recycling. Three years later, the City of Miami Beach exercised this power via the 2012 Ordinance.

ECOMB, an environmental education non-profit organization, was promoting commercial recycling while simultaneously encouraging policy changes. In 2009, ECOMB launched the “Raising the Bar” (RTB) project to help Miami Beach bars establish effective recycling programs. Since then, the “Raising the Bar” project has grown to target bars, restaurants, and nightclubs in Miami Beach. ECOMB facilitates recycling by training employees of venues participating in the RTB project to understand the importance of recycling, recognize recyclable materials, and easily implement the recycling program. This training maximizes the amount of recyclable materials that are actually recycled by venues.

Why does recycling matter? Recycling keeps valuable, reusable materials out of landfills to create new products. Ultimately, this conserves natural resources and reduces the overall carbon footprint—more recycling means less human-induced climate change. By setting-up a recycling program for their businesses, owners are making a decision to engage in sustainable practices. Recycling is so vital that Miami Beach has created an incentive for commercial venues to recycle. Once a venue adds a recycling program, the venue’s combined trash and recycling collection costs can be reduced by 20-40% of the venue’s present trash-only collection costs. Abraxas Lounge, now closed, participated in RTB and saved close to $1,000 annually. The Sagamore Hotel is saving over $1,200 per year; Wet Willie’s reduced its waste bill by nearly $2000 annually.

This summer, Alyse Arehart and Raul Cabrera are spearheading the RTB project. Arehart is a Miami Beach local who has been volunteering with ECOMB and working on RTB for years. Cabrera, a Miami native, is a second-year student at Stanford University with a long-standing interest in environmental conservation. He wants to ensure that businesses in Miami Beach establish recycling programs that engage their customers, “I want to show business owners that recycling is a very easy way to be kind to our environment, while also improving their bottom line. We usually have to break bad habits in order to behave sustainably, but eco-friendly behavior tends to save us money in the long-run.”

For additional information, or to engage your local business in recycling, contact Arehart and Cabrera at (305)534-3825 or rtb@ecomb.org

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