Everybody wants to recycle more and landfill less. In addition to being the best thing for the environment, it can also improve your bottom line. Sustainability efforts have come a long way in recent years, but there are always opportunities to do better. Upgrading your recycling program can save your business a considerable amount in disposal costs as well as increase revenue through the sale of more recyclable materials, at a higher price, to a wider variety of end users.
Here are a few simple tips for making your business more sustainable — and profitable.Identify Recyclable Waste
What are you throwing away every day that could potentially be recycled? And how much is it costing you? The answer isn’t as clear as you may think. A detailed waste audit will likely reveal many areas where you are sending an excess amount of your waste to a landfill, and throwing away money in the process.
Commonly thrown away recyclables include:
- Paper or plastic cores
- Kraft multi-wall bags
- Plastic drums
- Plastic and metal strapping
- All types of plastic packaging
- Nitrile gloves, hairnets & ear plugs
- Thread spools
- And many more
If a recycling program is going to work, everyone needs to be on the same page. Many companies face a resistance to change and a dependence on former habits, but nearly every company has individuals who care deeply about environmental issues. Management needs to utilize these individuals to develop internal Green Teams. These teams can be given extra responsibilities and incentives to lead efforts to get other staffers on board and up to speed. The ideal Green Team would feature workers from many shifts and departments, with several eyes and ears on the ground.Keep ‘Em Separated By Keeping It Simple
A staff that is well educated on how to properly handle recyclables can earn a company thousands of dollars a year. Proper separation of recyclables is critical. It is also important to keep all recycling receptacles in accessible locations with clear signage — with visuals making it as easy as possible for people to know what goes where.Bale Your Recyclables
The baling of recyclables is also key. Having balers on hand, and a staff that knows how to use them, goes a long way toward a company’s recycling initiatives. For example, you can fit 10 times as much cardboard on a truck if you bale it.Scout Innovative Solutions
Nearly all waste is recyclable. For example, many hard to recycle items can be handled by utilizing a variety of profitable return programs. There are also Waste To Energy options available for items that, while they may not be recyclable, can be converted into energy instead of going to a landfill.Do A Value Assessment
Learn what the values of your recyclables are. Get accurate data on how much you’re getting per ton. For example, the clearer a plastic is, the higher value it has. Colored plastics are less valuable. But most times they get bundled together. Depending on the volume of waste you produce, a basic analysis can help you figure out whether it’s worth it to your company to spend the time and labor to sort it out or whether to save the effort and make less per ton. Seemingly small decisions like this can make a big financial impact.Find A Recycling Partner
Without the expertise of a recycling partner, it is very difficult for a company to achieve Zero Waste to Landfill and fully maximize their recycling revenues. A recycling program can be difficult to manage, particularly for a company with multiple locations or plants across the country. It is time-consuming effort that requires ongoing training, on-site consultations and process analysis across all locations. A company greatly benefits from a recycling partner who can handle every step of the operation, from touring the plants, mapping out all the details with the decision makers, arranging the distribution and delivery schedules and creating the financial framework and payment arrangements.
Some things to look for in a recycling partner include:
- Reliable reporting: Companies need accurate data to track how they’re doing, progress or mistakes they’re making and money they’re saving or losing.
- Optimized picks ups: The ability to put all recyclables on one trailer, greatly reducing transportation costs.
- Single point of contact, even for multiple facilities across the country: This maximizes efficiency and profitability while making the recycling program more convenient and manageable.
- An understanding of your business/product and a commitment to finding solutions for hard-to-recycle items.
Noah Goodman is president and co-owner of Northstar Recycling, a company founded on his belief that sending reusable resources to a landfill is both bad for the environment and bad for business. Noah grew up in the recycling industry, developing his expertise with all types of waste materials and processes at his family’s recycling operations in Springfield Massachusetts. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, Noah continued to help businesses across North America recycle more and landfill less as a national provider of customized recycling solutions.