Companies are all over the spectrum when it comes to becoming a zero waste facility. Some companies have set extremely aggressive waste reduction goals, while others are just now making a slight push, and some just don't know where to start.
When Molson-Coors in Trenton Ohio set out to become a landfill free facility, one of the most simple acts that they did was to get rid of all of their trash bins in the plant. This was a simple act but it sent a clear message that they were serious about reducing waste, and they were practicing what they preached.
That being said, not every company is the size or has the budget to take on such an aggressive approach to zero waste. There is a delicate balance for most companies between watching the bottom line and doing the right thing for the planet. Luckily, zero waste is becoming more and more achievable for companies of all sizes. Here are a few key points that we use when it comes to waste reduction programs.
Pressing The Easy Button Can Be Costly
When we say the "Easy Button", we're referring to waste to energy or waste to fuel facilities. These facilities are a great resource to keep material out of the landfill but can be costly. When we audit material streams, we use this as the last option. Instead we do a deep dive into the material and what a possible recycling application could be. Finding other uses for your recycled material can turn landfilled scrap into a revenue stream, it may just take some strong investigative work.
It's a Marathon Not A Sprint
For waste reduction programs, we do a full audit of our client's waste stream and then rank them by priority. The factors that we use in ranking these streams include, environmental impact, total volume, and disposal cost. This allows us to attack the biggest challenge first and then work our way down the line. Finding unique solutions for landfilled material can take a good amount of time and effort, as well as a great deal of resources. Wether you're developing a program in house or you've hired a recycling company to do it for you, be patient and be prepared for some trial and error.
Look Long Term
It can be difficult to not fixate on the bottom line at times. We've had countless conversations with potential clients that think diverting a stream from the landfill means they just get save on their trash bill. This is simply not the way to look at things. Finding real, long term solutions to diverting waste from the landfill can sometimes take an investment, but looking at these things through the proper lens is key. As more innovative solutions become available, we are able to shift the way commodities are recycled and what once may have been a cost to recycle, may now even become a commodity stream. Going into these projects with a long term vision and the drive to do the right thing will likely yield much better results.
There are times where it is like flipping a switch to move a commodity from the landfill to the recycler, but it's few and far between. Understanding that you may need to change the way a material is packaged in order for a recycler to take the material. There may be times where separating different types of materials may take a few extra steps but these few extra steps can be the determining factor in if something is recyclable or waste. When we take on new clients, one of the main factors that we look at before committing is how open minded the potential client is to making changes in their process. Willingness to be flexible (within reason) drastically increases the probability of success.
Don't Go At It Alone
Going zero waste takes an entire team. When your company commits to reducing waste, we always recommend building an internal team, as well as seeking knowledge and resources from outside of your organization. This helps build a team that knows the ins and outs of the organization, processes, and products but also brings in perspective from people in the waste and recycling industry. Partnering with an outside organization allows your company access to resources that you may not have known were available to you. For instance, a client of ours asked for assistance in finding a certain piece of equipment that would allow them to divert material from the landfill. While we did in fact help them find the equipment, we were also able to seek out government funding to assist with the entire project, as well as a tax incentive through the state for job creation. Throughout this project we were also able to give them a detailed analysis on electrical cost to operate the new machine among other key data points such as the net present value, and forecasted supply cost.
When you're ready to take your waste stream to the next level, finding the right company to partner with is the key to success.