Kira Roff might just as well have been talking to the silent and stoic sculptures in Brookgreen Gardens for all the response she received when she first tried to institute a recycling program there in 2005.
“One of the things I noticed when I first started working there was that they had no recycling. It actually shocked me,” she said. “When I was promoted to vice president of operations and events, my first order of business was to start a recycling program.”
With more than 9,000 acres of Brookgreen property that would need special containers throughout, as well as training and education, it would prove to be a frustratingly gargantuan task that took years to reach fruition.
“It was interesting because no one would help me, but I felt that it was too important to give up,” Kira said. “I tried all the traditional ways to get (outside) help, but no one ever bothered to set foot on our property. That frustrated me.”
After meeting Chris Fisher at a conference in Charleston and touring his business, Fisher Recycling LLC, Kira had a mild epiphany. Here was a company, established in 1992, that had done all the ground work and put together the right formula to make recycling easy and efficient for its residential and commercial customers. And, unlike other companies, Fisher Recycling actually would come to the customer’s site and conduct a waste audit with recommendations and a game plan. Soon the recycling program at Brookgreen was established.
“Within 6-8 months of recycling at Brookgreen Gardens, we saw its impact,” Kira recalled. “Just in plastic and aluminum, we collected 3 tons of material.”
Kira was so impressed that, after 11 years with Brookgreen, she decided, with her husband, Steve, to sign on as Fisher’s first franchisee ─ Fisher Recycling Grand Strand. The new franchise, established in late 2009, serves communities throughout Horry and Georgetown counties.
“Because I felt so strongly about this, it really wasn’t that hard of a decision,” she explained. “I prayed about it. I just felt like I really needed to do it, almost like a calling. It’s like the heavens lined up to make sure this opportunity happened for us.”
Indeed. Steve Roff has a degree in marine science from Coastal Carolina University. Both he and Kira grew up in the area and have been devoted to recycling and environmentalism in their personal lives.
“This whole idea of protecting the environment is just in both of our souls,” Kira said. “It’s really been wonderful for us to be partners in this venture. It’s been one of those puzzles where everything just fit together. Everything connected. And we are having a lot of fun doing it.”
Like Fisher Recycling in Charleston, Fisher Recycling Grand Strand’s services include recycling (glass, plastic, aluminum, tin, office paper, cardboard, etc.), waste audits, provision of recycling containers and pick-up, as well as training and education.
Because she understands the frustration of establishing a recycling program within a very large organization, Kira sees the greatest opportunities right now on the commercial side. An estimated 14 million visitors come to Myrtle Beach every year to stay at local hotels, eat in local restaurants, and shop in local malls. The recyclables generated from the “heart of tourism” represent a significant volume of waste diverted from the landfill and into the recycling stream.
“The primary obstacle to recycling right now in Myrtle Beach is that some of the hotels are so very large; some are almost cities unto themselves. For them, the thought of recycling and converting waste seems so overwhelming that it’s hard to know where to start,” Kira explained. “They also have to go through their chains of command. … But starting recycling is better than not recycling at all, and it will grow with time.”
The parents of two ─ Bryn, age 10, and Wyatt, age 8 ─ the Roffs place a high value on environmental education, both for children and adults
“Recycling isn’t as hard as people think that it is,” Kira said. “There are small changes that you can make that make a difference.”
With regard to residential recycling, Myrtle Beach still has a long way to go. Kira says that many locals feel that if recycling services are not completely free and convenient, they just won’t do it. They’re afraid it will take too much effort and time away from their busy schedules.
“That is where the education component comes in, along with customer service and teaching our children,” Kira said. “At Fisher Recycling, we are trying to make recycling as easy as possible and show that it’s not hard.”
So for now, the promise is strongest on the commercial side, and that’s where strategic partnering comes in.
“We have received just wonderful feedback from the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce and the Myrtle Beach Area Hospitality Association and area businesses. Everyone is jumping on board. They have been outstanding in their support,” Kira said. “We are really excited to partner with them.”
In March, the Roffs signed on their first restaurant to participate in the company’s Oyster Shell Recycling Program, which collects and returns recycled shells to the environment to help grow new reefs. Gulf Stream Café in Garden City, which hosts a weekly oyster roast during the spring months, will use Fisher Recycling bins to collect discarded oyster shells.
The Roffs are self-starters who are carving out a niche for themselves along the Grand Strand. So how do they like being their own bosses?
“I am a very self motivated person and don't like to punch the clock,” Kira explained. “I work better under my own motivation and passion for a job than sitting behind a desk and doing the same thing each day. I also like that my children can see that Steve and I are trying to make a difference in our community and environment. It’s an opportunity to teach our children firsthand the work values we have and show them how important recycling and the sustainability of the environment are.”
For more information, visit www.fisherrecycling.com.October 28, 2010