Pathfinder Recycling Success

THE quiet hero of Minneapolis's ``Uptown'' recycling program is the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group (MPIRG). The University of Minnesota-based environmental/consumer research and action group has come up with a plan that could help other communities copy this successful undertaking (see main story). Initially, MPIRG conducted a survey of the 250 Uptown businesses and found that 72 percent of them were interested in recycling. The survey also determined the amounts and types of recyclable materials each business was generating.

That information helped the association decide whether it was worthwhile to consider group recycling. It also gave Aagard some figures for projecting their potential earnings and for deciding which locations would be best for placing the recycling dumpsters.

But that poll was just part of a larger one conducted by a MPIRG-created group called BARTER - Businesses Allied to Recycle Through Exchange and Reuse. BARTER recently surveyed 6,600 small businesses in the Twin Cities, asking for the same kind of information collected in the Uptown poll. The result is a list of businesses and the types and amounts of recyclable materials they generate.

BARTER then tied that information to those businesses' Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) codes - four-digit numbers that the federal government first developed in the 1930s. Michael Lee, MPIRG's research director, says these codes, with all their related information, have been used to do market research, but connecting them to recycling data has not been done on such a large scale before.

When BARTER's database is complete, Mr. Lee says, a recycler or local official in any United States city could then plug the program into their own local SIC listings to determine quickly where, what, and how many recyclables are being generated in a given area.

Recognizing the benefits of the program, the Metropolitan Council, a seven-county planning board, has provided BARTER with $130,000 over the last 2 1/2 years. Lee hopes eventually to receive national funding so that the database could be marketed on a national basis, thus making small-business recycling more feasible in many other communities.

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