Millions of plastic water bottles, cardboard boxes, paper products, food waste, glass containers, consumer electronics like mobile phones and computers, and more are thrown into the trash daily. All of which are either headed for a landfill or recycled. In fact, in 2018, the U.S. generated more than 292 million tons of trash, which continues to increase.
According to statistics from the EPA, the United States recycles approximately 66% (69 million tons) of its waste materials, with paper and cardboard making up the largest category of recycling, accounting for 66.5% (45,970,000 tons). The remaining recycled materials include metals, plastics, glass, and other consumer waste.
Why should you care about these statistics?
Today, many companies, from commercial office buildings and educational facilities to retail stores, have come to understand the benefits of establishing sustainability programs for financial reasons and appealing to their customers.
"In 2011, 20% of S&P 500 companies published a sustainability report. By 2017, it was 85%. If we can support their goals, that makes us a more attractive partner and enables us to meet our own internal sustainability goals" - Jason McIntyre, Director of Real Estate Operations & Sustainability for USAA Real Estate [BOMA]
Committing to a successful recycling program affects your company's environmental sustainability and could impact your ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) initiatives. Not to mention reducing your carbon footprint and related cost benefits.
Making the following changes will help you to optimize and improve your business' recycling program:
1. Evaluate Waste Streams
Before you can improve your recycling program, you need to understand your waste streams thoroughly. Start your improvement efforts by conducting an in-depth waste management and recycling audit.
The audit should comprehensively analyze your current waste stream and diversion practices, including tracking relevant data, verifying equipment maintenance and frequency, checking for trash contamination of the paperboard compactor, and auditing invoices.
When done correctly, it will provide you with the information you need:
- To determine waste disposal, storage, equipment needs, and how to reach landfill diversion, and aim for Zero Waste to Landfill.
- To reduce waste management costs.
- To implement and achieve ESG initiatives.
- To meet compliance with state, local, and other regulatory requirements.
- To meet the requirements for LEED certification - USGBC.org.
How often you should conduct a waste management and recycling audit will depend on your company's policies, compliance regulations, and other requirements.
2. Optimize Waste and Recycling Processes
At the end of the audit process, you should understand precisely what and how much waste has left your location and disposal methods, including recycling.
Otherwise, you are disposing of not only waste materials but you are also throwing away money on inefficient disposal.
Armed with the information from the audit, you can now take the steps needed to optimize your waste management processes. Start by implementing sustainable recycling, waste diversion practices, and a strategy for achieving Zero Waste to Landfill goals.
3. Manage Processes and Vendors
Waste management is a continuous job, whether food waste and used cooking oil at a restaurant, hazardous/infectious medical waste at a hospital, or paper and office supplies at a commercial office building.
Your ongoing waste management effectiveness will determine your recycling initiatives’ success.
Communicate your waste management and recycling policies with the janitorial, building maintenance, tenants, and other staff. If necessary, provide training on how these policies are to be implemented. The more connected your vendors are to your recycling initiatives, the better the daily processes and the better the outcome.
Even so, you will rely on the services of a professional waste management vendor to track and aggregate data.
4. Conduct Auditable Reporting
You should go into this process understanding that collecting the pertinent data across every stream, both the waste itself, the financial impacts and Scope 3 emissions of vendors servicing the waste streams, is cumbersome and time-consuming.
Conducting a waste and recycling audit usually requires close coordination between multiple vendors and collaboration with members of your management and maintenance staff.
Do you have a team on staff to devote time and effort to a comprehensive waste stream audit?
- Can you rely on your current waste management vendors to provide accurate reports on time?
It is more than just auditing invoices and costs. A comprehensive waste stream audit involves verifying and tracking equipment maintenance reports, container volumes, disposal/treatment methods, and locations (landfill, recycled, shipped overseas).
Work closely with your waste management vendors to ensure that they are collecting data and tracking key metrics. Reporting is essential for compliance, ESG reporting, and some sustainability certifications, so the vendor must also be capable of providing you with the required data and reports.
That is why the information collected in the audit is essential.
5. Partner with Waste and Recycling Experts
Keter Environmental Services has many resources dedicated to providing top-notch service. In addition, since Keter has established relationships with vetted waste management and related vendors, you benefit from our sustainability expertise, purchasing power, and ability to negotiate the best pricing.
Additionally, with Keter's proprietary application eTrac, you have access to real-time data tracking and analytics.
Contact us to learn how Keter can help you improve your recycling program.