Paper or plastic? It's an issue Dave Bock deals with daily, but it has nothing to do with the bagging of groceries. Bock is president of Leisure Time Packaging, which distributes paper and plastic bags manufactured from recycled materials to environmentally conscious merchandisers.
"It's so confusing to retailers. What they're being told is paper is better," Bock said. Actually, plastic bags take up less landfill space--paper will not decompose in a landfill, he contends.
"The bottom line is whether everybody reuses and recycles their bag. Plastic does not pollute--people do."
So goes the gospel according to Bock, a message he delivers to his clients. It's a message the 26-year-old entrepreneur zealously preaches as his "contribution to the future."
Leisure Time serves companies as diverse as Yamaha's motorcycle division, Paramount Studios and Orange County firms such as Mossimo, Spot and Club Sportswear. The company supplies packaging materials and boxes for inventory shipped to stores and bags that are used during retail promotions.
As a distributor, Bock shops for manufacturers that use a high percentage of recycled materials. He then handles the printing of companies' logos on the packaging, frequently serving as a creative consultant on what information should be included on a shopping bag or box.
Besides a company's identification, city and phone number, such crucial information will always include facts on recycling.
"Obviously I want to make money, but I also want to educate the retailers about (recycling)," said Bock, who said his 4-year-old Huntington Beach company made nearly $850,000 in 1992. He expects sales to reach $1.25 million this year because of the popularity of using recycled products.
Staying current in recycling is tricky, Bock said, because "the rules change almost quarterly."
Because of the constant rule changes and questions his clients receive from customers about why they use a certain type of bag, Bock periodically sends an informational mailer. He hopes to begin a regular newsletter, which would feature much of the same information such as a hot line with addresses and phone numbers for local recycling centers.
Before launching Leisure Time in May, 1989, this surfer's interest in recycling didn't extend beyond occasionally collecting cans and newspapers.
For a time, the only bags Bock concerned himself with were filled with the white powder that took control of his life shortly after high school graduation in 1984. "I took a year off to rage. But I got the bite of cocaine," he recalled. "I was homeless for three months doing a good $300-a-day habit."
Bock, born and raised in Fountain Valley, found himself living under freeway underpasses and other unconventional shelters in both Los Angeles and Orange counties.
With his family's support, however, he was in drug rehabilitation treatment from 1985 to 1986.
Bock said he has been drug-free since Oct. 21, 1986, and has dedicated himself to also cleaning up the planet.
As part of an accounting class he took at Irvine Valley College in the fall of 1988, Bock developed a small business plan for a packaging company in the surf industry. Meanwhile he peddled the logo and bumper stickers produced by his father's company in Huntington Beach, which caters to the surf industry.
It was during his visits with surf shop owners that he determined that there was a need for bags made from recycled materials.
"People wanted recycled bags--even though they were going to cost more," he said.
Seeing an opportunity, Bock decided to transform his school project into a business despite initial protests from his father that he should wait until he had more capital than the $5,000 he had to start a business.
He moved into a corner of his father's warehouse and set up an office that consisted of a folding table, a beach chair, a two-line telephone and a cardboard box for files.
Within six months he moved into a "real" office in his father's building in Huntington Beach, and six months later he was able to hire someone to answer the telephones. Leisure Time now has a five-person staff.
Bock dismisses the notion that he's becoming a recycling guru.
He prefers to think that he's part of a trend, which he speculates will become increasingly important under the current Administration.
Said Bock: "It's going to have to become mandatory to recycle and use recycled goods. Unless it's mandated, people won't do it."