I'll Drink to That

WELL, ANOTHER HOLIDAY SEASON has come and gone, and, to be honest, we've all probably had our fill of toasting the arrival of the new year. However, a couple of solid waste companies have given us reasons to raise our glasses — or, in the case of one of the firms, our coffee mugs — one more time.

As 2005 wound down and 2006 cranked up, Sunset Scavenger Co., a garbage and recycling firm that serves neighborhoods in San Francisco, launched a campaign urging its customers to make a simple yet potentially effective New Year's resolution: to stop drinking their coffee in throwaway cups and begin gulping their favorite java in a reusable mug.

The latest edition of the company's newsletter notes that some Bay Area coffee shops give a discount to customers who bring in their own mugs.

“I carry a reusable travel mug with me all the time,” said Bob Besso, recycling manager at Sunset Scavenger, in a press release announcing the campaign. “Reuse is a key element to reducing waste. Taking your own mug to the coffee shop is an obvious example, but there are many others.”

Indeed, Sunset Scavenger, which is owned by San Francisco-based Norcal Waste Systems, also has publicized other simple New Year's resolutions its customers can make to reduce waste, such as buying products with little or no packaging and purchasing items made from recyclable materials.

While Sunset was busy launching its coffee mug campaign, Houston-based Waste Management (WM) was raising money for the Hurricane Katrina relief effort. In early December, the firm auctioned off a Harley-Davidson motorcycle covered with nearly 70 celebrity autographs. The winner, Houston attorney John O'Quinn, paid a cool $1 million for the hog. WM donated the money to the Bush Clinton Katrina Fund.

WM purchased the motorcycle, which sat on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” set for several weeks and was autographed by many of the program's guests, for $800,100 earlier this year in an eBay auction. That money went to help the victims of 2004's Southeast Asian tsunami.

Autographs on the motorcycle include those of former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, Leno, real estate mogul Donald Trump, actor Leonardo DiCaprio, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (no word yet on whether his autograph decreased the value of the motorcycle) and baseball pitcher Roger Clemens.

The recent actions of Sunset Scavenger and WM demonstrate the ability of solid waste firms to be responsible and caring members of the community, in ways both large and small. And working to improve an area's quality of life is something we can all hoist a glass to.

The author is the editor of Waste Age