A recycling program provides a service to the community, while also proving a profitable business when done well. With space, equipment, and crew, the start-up costs of a full force recycling program can be cost-prohibitive, though, which makes it difficult to get much-needed programs in place in many municipalities.

 

Requirements

The total cost of a recycling program depends upon what types of materials you’ll be processing, and how you’ll be doing that processing. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offers some insight as to the basic needs of every local recycling program. These include:

  • Processing centers
  • Drop-off centers, or pick-up programs
  • A team that can handle both the technical and business aspects of the program

Processing equipment is also a necessity, and well-designed equipment that limits the use of electricity increases the environmental-friendliness of a recycling start-up.

 

Figuring Costs

While the costs of starting your own recycling program remain consistent in terms of what you need, expenses vary widely based upon how a business is operated. Having individuals drop recycling off at your facility, or providing drop-offs in the form of dumpsters, is generally less expensive than curb-side pick-up, for instance, due to the reduction in workers required for the task.

Doing recycling in a facility without easy public accessibility will also generally be cheaper, since accessible real estate usually comes at a higher cost, but this can be problematic if you want people to bring their recycling in for treatment.

Consider these basic start-up costs (with some possible costs) and shop around for the best deal:

  • Processing facility ($1500/mo)
  • Drop-offs ($1000 per unit)
  • Employees, bare bones staff of five at $10/hour ($2000/wk + taxes, insurance, social security)
  • Equipment ($5000 – $10,000)
  • Utilities

All in all, you’re looking at a $20,000 to $30,000 first month in business for a smoothly-operating recycling business, which is why the EPA recommends finding backers from the community to offset initial fees.

 

The Profit Factor

When keeping costs low, it’s important to keep in mind that profits may suffer from these decisions. Individuals are far less likely to participate in a program that forces them to come to you, for instance, than a program that puts everything they need at their door. This means you will have less recycled scrap to sell, cutting into your profits, and that you will also be rescuing fewer pieces from landfills.

While standard equipment will get the job done, electricity-saving equipment will reduce utility expenses later on, thereby increasing profits.

 

Help is Available

As a benefit to the public, those people with good business plans looking to start recycling programs are entitled to grants in many states. So, before you begin a recycling program locally, check with the state to see how much funding you can get. Often, you’ll be able to get some free money to offset any loans required to get your business off the ground.

 

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  • Amy Donahue

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