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Program offers incentive rather than punishment

Douglas County is hoping to offer recycling incentives for the business community. The county board approved a cooperative agreement with the city of Superior Thursday to seek grant funding for an incentive program. Superior's City Council approv...

Douglas County is hoping to offer recycling incentives for the business community.

The county board approved a cooperative agreement with the city of Superior Thursday to seek grant funding for an incentive program. Superior's City Council approved the measure Tuesday.

With consumers favoring ecologically-friendly businesses, Douglas County Recycling Coordinator Mary Klun said a "carrot approach" may encourage recycling.

"It's better for the environment," she said, and "It's the law."

Wisconsin doesn't have specific recycling requirements for businesses, such as the residential curbside program, but state law requires companies to recycle materials prohibited from landfills.

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Since the early 1990s, when Wisconsin banned lead acid batteries and major appliances in landfills, the list of prohibited materials has grown to include yard waste, aluminum containers, corrugated paper and other container board, foam polystyrene packaging, glass containers, magazines, newspapers, office paper and plastic containers.

The Department of Natural Resources efficiency grant would create and maintain a Douglas County Green Business program. The only requirement is that the proposal meets state regulations, Klun said.

Klun estimates the grant will yield about $20,000 and continue for three years.

The voluntary program offers incentives and education to help businesses become more environmentally focused.

"I'm excited we're moving forward with this," said Supervisor Sue Hendrickson, a member of the county recycling committee. "This has been needed for a long, long time."

A variety of factors, including recycling, can help commercial operations earn points for their efforts to protect the environment. Firms that earn 30 points are granted the title of a "green and sustainable business."

Companies also can earn points in other ways. Things such as transportation, operational and energy efficiency, storm water management and other sustainable practices can contribute to their total.

Quarterly, Klun said she will run ads thanking the businesses and encouraging patronage for the effort to protect the environment.

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She said the DNR wants local governments to take a bolder stance with businesses that don't recycle, which prompted a program that offers incentives rather than punishment. The program is modeled after one created by the state tourism council and DNR -- Travel Green Wisconsin -- Klun said.

"There's been some recent studies done that this is one of the faster growing retail trends," Klun said. "People are looking for green businesses. They would prefer to work with a green business."

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