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Restaurants finding recycle merits

Overall, recycling programs are increasing for the nation's restaurants, and steel can recycling is playing a major role, according to a recent press conference in Chicago sponsored by the Steel Recycling Institute, Pittsburgh, PA.

After a broad look at the issue, SRI's Jerry Thompson turned to Vanessa Maybury, National Waste Services, Chicago, and Deanna Fry, environmental affairs coordinator of Cracker Barrel restaurants, Lebanon, TN. Both tipping and collection fees are on the rise, Maybury reported, and she's concerned about the declining markets for recycled materials. "When materials prices are high, everyone can make money. Some haulers have been picking up recyclables free, but now they're losing money." Money isn't the issue for the 250-unit Cracker Barrel restaurant chain. Each unit must meet minimum standards, recycling steel cans, corrugated and glass. Most go much further, Fry says, but it really depends on the services available locally. She reports that the restaurants want multiple pick-ups of recyclables, corrugated at least three times a week, steel cans even more frequently. In part that's because the restaurant chain has yet to install can flatteners, saying the return doesn't justify the investment. Among packaging initiatives at Cracker Barrel: a mandate to reduce incoming packaging materials by 25%; shifting to returnable, reusable totes where possible; and, most recently, a move to replace paper labels on #5 and #10 steel cans with one-color litho printing. Fry did point out that in its move toward use of recycled materials, Cracker Barrel has been finding recycled paper is now cheaper than virgin in some grades.

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