Have you stopped to think recently about how much your waste management is costing you? Not just in terms of money, but in terms of time and effort? Recycling your business waste can improve the efficiency, image and environmental impact of your enterprise, regardless of its size. Both small businesses and large corporations can benefit from taking an eco-friendly approach to waste management.
Throwing away your commercial waste without considering other options may be costing you in the long run. Doing so can be more expensive, hurt your business’ reputation and even put you at risk for regulatory violations. And that’s not to mention the severe impact you could be causing to the environment. So how can you implement a robust waste management policy? In this article, we’ll go over why this policy is so valuable to your organization and how to incorporate it effectively.
How Business Recycling Can Benefit Your Company
We know green initiatives help the planet — that’s their whole purpose. But how do they help you and your company thrive? What effect do they have on your bottom line?
First and foremost, they can reduce waste costs. Many people are nervous about waste management solutions due to the initial price tag, but they can actually save you money over time.
- Fewer materials purchased: Recycling your materials can extend the use you get from them. A substance that can be filtered, like some motor oils or paint solvents, can last much longer than you think. They don’t necessarily need to be thrown out after one use. Other materials, like paper and cardboard, can be used as packing materials. Reviewing how you use your materials will also help you identify areas where you can minimize purchasing them in the first place.
- Cheaper recycling programs: Often, it costs less to send waste for recycling than it does to send it to a landfill. Many recycling companies will resell the used materials to companies that can use it. This resale adds to its value and can save you money since you pay for more than just the cost of processing it for disposal. You may be able to sell some of your waste yourself. Scrap metal is a great example. Various metals can be a valuable raw material for another industry. Aluminum, for example, is the most recyclable metal and can be used over and over again in a true closed loop. You can use the wiring and components of old electronics similarly. ERC makes every effort to find alternative uses for your materials like this when you use our services.
- Fewer pickups: If you consolidate your waste and reuse or recycle materials, you can call for waste collection less frequently. Investing in equipment like balers and compacters can help you do this for some materials. If you have the space for it, lowering the number of pickups you need can save you money.
- Lower fees: You may be able to contact your waste collector and see about lower fees. If you can prove that you require fewer pickups and are operating under reduced waste initiatives, you can sometimes negotiate lower costs.
- Save space: Your square footage is valuable, and recycling efforts can save you precious space, leaving more room for useful business operations. By reusing items, you eliminate the need to leave them sitting in storage, waiting to be collected. Compactors and balers can help you reduce the amount of space your waste materials take up and, in the case of balers, you can even get rid of bins completely. You may also be able to prevent some business waste from being created in the first place.
Green initiatives can also help you improve your business’ reputation. People value recycling, and they are buying more sustainable products than they were previously. A recycling program can influence how people perceive your company and put your product on eco-friendly radars.
You can use environmentally friendly packaging, such as recycled and recyclable products and minimal plastics. Donating to the cause and running or sponsoring community programs and events can also help if you want to get serious about these efforts. You will likely need to make your environmentally friendly actions known to the public to reap any of these benefits. Updating them on your efforts, posting your measurable key performance indicators (KPIs) and implementing a PR campaign are all ways you can do this.
Being green will also help you meet legal and regulatory obligations. Any business that generates waste must abide by specific standards about the ways that they dispose of materials. If you produce hazardous materials, you must be especially careful. A slip-up here could cost you significant financial penalties. A violation of the Resource and Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) could cost a civil penalty of up to $70,117 per day, per violation. Clean Air Act violations can reach $93,750. Aside from financial penalties, you’ll also need to consider any legal costs associated with them.
A damaged reputation is another risk of violating fines. If you make headlines by pumping thousands of gallons of hazardous waste into the ocean, the public isn’t likely to be very happy with you. The reaction may hurt sales and make for a very stressed-out PR team. You can alleviate these concerns by ensuring your business doesn’t generate an excess of harmful materials or dispose of them improperly. Working with the expert team at ERC can give you peace of mind due to the knowledge that your business is complying with complex disposal regulations. We will also streamline the process for you, making it as easy as possible.
You may think your business isn’t big enough to be a significant contributor of waste, but waste management can work for companies of any size. If one office building of 7,000 workers recycled all of its paper, plastic and corrugated waste in a year, they would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1,200 metric tons of carbon equivalent, equal to taking 900 cars off the road.
Developing a Plan for Business Waste
Regardless of how you do it, all recycling costs money, time and energy, but you can minimize how much of that even needs doing. The best way to reduce waste management costs is by reducing the waste that needs managing. There are a variety of strategies you can use to reduce and reuse the materials you use in the first place.
Conduct a Waste Audit
You can do this in-house or hire an expert. Smaller businesses may be able to get by with an in-house audit, but larger, more intricate companies will likely want to hire outside help with more resources and expertise. However you choose to run it, a waste audit identifies areas where your facility can reduce the use of materials and improve its disposal practices, among other goals.
- You’ll want to collect all waste over a certain period, such as a few days or a week, from all areas of operation. Select a time when no events will be occurring and most employees will be present. You want your samples to be representative of average waste production to give you a better picture of overall usage. As you gather materials, identify their source, collection date and stream.
- Once the trash is collected, weigh each bag and sort trash into categories, like paper, cardboard, plastics and aluminum. Characterize the waste and separate the recyclables, writing down which ones were mixed in with the trash. Weigh each category.
- After you’ve collected and sorted all of your waste, you’ll want to analyze it. Identify information like how much of your recyclables were mixed in with trash and what categories generated the highest amounts of waste. Use these numbers to inform any specific goals you’d like to reach, such as increasing the number of paper products recycled. The costs of waste disposal are another significant aspect to take note of. Materials that cost more to get rid of can be more of a burden on your business than materials that are cheap or free to dispose of.
- Be sure to use this information as you implement your sustainability goals. It can be great for marketing efforts and to offer to shareholders as evidence of your hard work. You can generate KPIs and goals like “Reduce paper wastes by 20 percent in the next year.” Don’t forget about goals that may be harder to count, like creating happier customers and employees and contributing to a worthwhile cause of sustainability.
Update Workplace Procedures
Once you’ve armed yourself with information about your facility’s usage patterns, you can make small, easy changes to workplace procedures to target more eco-friendly practices.
Find areas where you can reduce or reuse materials. Take a walk through an average day at the office or worksite and review the material used in each operation. Are there any places where you can reduce material usage? You may be able to start using more emails instead of printing out company-wide memos or install hand dryers in bathrooms. If you don’t already shut off the lights when not in use, you can save significant energy costs there. Here are a few more ways you can reduce your energy and materials used.
- Watch your printing: Only print when necessary — in the digital age, this is getting easier and easier. Digital filing options are common. Also, be sure to print double-sided when you do need to print. Look into using recycled paper in the office as well.
- Add energy-efficient lighting: Incandescent light bulbs use much more energy than eco-friendly LED bulbs. They can reduce your electricity costs and cut down on the number of lightbulbs you have to throw out every year.
- Buy silverware: A simple set of reusable silverware and a sink in the office breakroom can help you reduce plastic waste and make your employees feel just a little more at home.
- Maintain your HVAC system: Make sure it is working well and that any filters have been changed, especially during extremely hot or cold temperatures.
- Use rechargeable batteries: Not only are they better for the environment, but they are often more cost-effective. Remember to dispose of them properly.
- Implement a composting bin: Though its effectiveness can vary from business to business, a composting bin can help reduce the amount of waste generated.
- Check your water system: Look for any leaky faucets and make sure your water heater is running well. Dual-flush toilet systems can save you water too.
- Turn off equipment: Just like the lights, leaving equipment plugged in still draws power, even if no one is using it. Unplug devices at the end of the day or consider smart power strips.
- Use sustainable cleaning equipment: Cloths and towels are reusable alternatives to paper towels for cleaning, reducing paper waste.
- Reuse paper in-house: Shred paper waste and use any that don’t contain sensitive information as padding materials in packaging. You can also encourage employees to take any extra paper with them for household uses, like animal bedding or dropcloths for small painting applications.
While small businesses probably don’t have the means to apply these next few suggestions, large companies may be able to make significant changes. One big eco-friendly initiative could be to install solar panels. While their upfront cost is nothing to sneeze at, solar panels could offer a profit of over $41,000 after 25 years, depending on the location and utility costs. They also eliminate the concern of rising and fluctuating utility costs. If you’re serious about going green, solar energy can be an efficient long-term solution, and grants are often available to help with purchases.
You can similarly implement wind turbines or hybrid vehicles. If you live in a windy area without a particularly energy-heavy operation, a wind turbine or two may be enough to significantly reduce or pay off your electric bills. Once paid off, a turbine can provide additional revenue from the utility company. Hybrid vehicles use much less gas than traditional cars.
Another way to reduce your usage is by examining your workplace efficiency. For manufacturers, a review of your layout, equipment choices and production process could offer decreased energy and materials consumption. You may want to talk to equipment vendors for suggestions on how to run the machines as efficiently as possible, such as using less material or creating less waste and byproducts.
Consider what kinds of materials you are using. If you opt for a hazardous substance over a nonhazardous one, you are likely creating a bigger headache for yourself. Hazardous materials are more expensive to get rid of and come with more regulatory stipulations. It is easier to run into compliance issues with hazardous materials. See if there are nonhazardous alternatives that can minimize the amount of hazardous waste you generate.
If you generate a lot of oil waste, remember that it can be recycled. Oil doesn’t wear out — it merely gets dirty and doesn’t work as well. Recycling oil keeps a valuable resource in use and prevents it from polluting the environment. Re-refined oil can be used as lubricants, processed into fuel oils and be used as raw materials. The re-refined oil is equivalent to virgin oil, passing the prescribed tests, and can sometimes outperform virgin oil.
Reducing and reusing can only address so much waste. After those options have been exhausted, we can look at recycling.
- Place recycle bins around the office. While a standard blue bin is a great start, you can do one better and provide bins for metal and plastic too. These may be necessary for a bigger business with more recyclables.
- Look for any recycling programs that can offer money back or incentives for old ink, batteries or electronics.
- If you have products that can be filtered or distilled such as oil or solvents, look into adding those operations to your workflow.
- Sell any scrap metal you generate.
When it’s time to recycle, ERC can handle your commercial waste. We can run your waste through different processes to extend its life and get as much value from it as possible.
Consider Other Changes
Some other tips for improving your waste management include the following.
1. Donate Materials
See if you can donate any of your materials to local organizations. Not only does this avoid creating waste, but you can gain some clout in the community and a nice PR bump. Churches, Boys & Girls Clubs and schools are all places that may be able to repurpose your old materials. You could also work this into press coverage. A news story about the local animal shelter using your donated supplies to revamp a deteriorating space? That wouldn’t be a bad headline, would it?
2. Use Efficient Recycling Tools
Industrial-sized tools may help prepare your waste for the disposal process. Compactors can save you space by pressing large quantities of trash into a smaller area. This process can be especially valuable for businesses with less space, like restaurants and bars. Doing this can help you use fewer pickups to collect more waste, saving you money as well. And you don’t need to make a hefty investment for this. ERC offers roll-off compactors. A baler works similarly to a compactor, but it compresses materials down into a dense bale and bundles everything together. It eliminates the need for a bin and, again, will save you space. You can have fewer pickups and don’t need to pay for containers.
3. Apply for Grants and Tax Breaks
Depending on your location and business, you may qualify for grants, tax breaks or other incentives for green initiatives. If your recycling efforts require a larger fund for the startup, grants can help with financing. Popular targets for these grants include the implementation of solar or wind power. Many states also offer tax incentives for businesses that recycle or reduce waste. You can search the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency to see what is offered in your state. Here’s a tip: Filter your results by sector and navigate to your category of business to see the results that will apply to you.
4. Use Better Equipment
Investing more in a durable, long-lasting tool or piece of equipment can help you reduce waste. Throwing out one device after years of use is much more resourceful than throwing out multiples. Depending on the application, better equipment may reduce the need for replacement parts or maintenance components, like filters and oil changes. Higher-quality materials also tend to perform better and can improve efficiency.
5. Reduce Packaging
If you distribute product to consumers, run a restaurant or participate in any number of other industries, you may be a perpetrator of unnecessary packaging. Do a thorough review of your products and make sure that every component of your packaging is necessary. Eliminate any extra plastic or other materials that you can.
You could also try and replace your packaging with recycled materials. These materials are often cheaper and can be a great way to show your customers your commitment to sustainability. Since 83 percent of consumers feel that environmentally friendly product design is “important or extremely important,” using sustainable materials can significantly boost your company image. As compared to five years ago, 72 percent say they actively buy more environmentally friendly products.
Most people see plastic as the least responsible type of packaging, and with good reason. Plastic doesn’t degrade at anywhere near the speed of paper goods, leaving it to take up space in landfills and bodies of water for years to come. Aluminum, on the other hand, is highly recyclable. It can be reused over and over without any loss of quality, and recycled aluminum saves 95 percent of the energy required to make the same amount of aluminum from a virgin source. Choose your materials carefully. This can save you on costs associated with recycling more expensive items.
Once you’ve decided how exactly you’re going to reduce and reuse your materials, be sure to communicate it. Train employees appropriately. You can even hold events or competitions to encourage green practices and jump-start your recycling campaign. Update any policies or add new ones if necessary. If you’re focusing heavily on your company image, you may want to release information about your sustainability initiatives. An email blast, press release or blog post are all ways you can do this.
Personalized Waste Solutions
After you’ve reduced and reused, you are still likely to have some waste left over. At that point, a responsible waste management facility can take care of it, whether that is through recycling, more reuse or disposal. ERC offers a variety of waste management solutions that will efficiently take care of your waste and recyclables in an environmentally sound and cost-effective way. Once it’s on our trucks, you can take it off your mind. We will collect your waste, find and process reusable and recyclable materials and dispose of whatever is left through a process that is as smooth as possible for you.
Be sure to choose a provider that has the necessary permits and knowledge to treat and dispose of the different types of waste you may generate. Also, look for one that prioritizes recycling and processes any materials they can. ERC does this and can streamline the process for your organization while thinking about your bottom line. Here are a few waste disposal and recycling services that may apply to your business, all offered by ERC.
- Containerized waste recycling and disposal: The pickup of various containers, including drums, pails, totes, pallets, cubic-yard boxes and super sacs, provides you with increased flexibility. You can call for collection as often as you need.
- Wastewater treatment: To make wastewater discharge safe and compliant, treatment involves running a chemical treatment process for removing greases, oils, solids and metals.
- Single stream treatment: Some companies, like ERC, can develop a custom treatment plan for high-volume waste streams that are typically challenging to treat. These processes make the collection faster and easier for you.
- Oil recycling: You can often recycle heating fuels, along with crankcase, maintenance, machine shop, industrial and marine oils.
- Solidification: Some contaminants require solidification for safe disposal to appropriate landfills.
- Waste-to-Energy: This process uses incineration and steam generators to produce power and must be done by a qualified facility.
- Commercial and industrial roll-off dumpsters: These allow the collection of a multitude of wastes, including standard solid waste, appliances, clean-outs, scrap metal and other refuse from business applications.
Industry-specific applications may require a tailored solution.
In an industry with strict regulation like the pharmaceutical industry, you need a waste management service you can trust. ERC provides documented tracking information through the entire process, from pickup to disposal. You need a company that is well-certified and adheres to all pharmaceutical regulations. You’ll likely have many types of containerized wastes to be collected, both hazardous and nonhazardous, along with bulk liquid and sludges. Lab packing is one collection method you may want to consider. This method involves collecting smaller containers of chemical waste in larger bins. Secure destruction is another service you’ll want to ensure that your sensitive information is protected.
Construction and demolition activities can generate a lot of waste from many different sources, which is where a waste management company can make your job easier. They can handle your concrete, building, roofing, tank removal and HVAC waste, along with any building debris. Companies like ERC will take the time-consuming process of construction waste disposal and recycling off your hands. We can come to you with a variety of roll-off dumpsters and can reach your project site almost anywhere in the Mid-Atlantic region.
3. Manufacturing Waste
Manufacturers companies can have a variety of unique waste management needs, and a service company can provide these, often cheaper than in-house options. ERC focuses on sustainability and personalized service, providing custom solutions for industrial, chemical, cosmetic and electronic manufacturing, among many others. Some of our services include tank management, wastewater treatment, containerized waste collection and oil recovery and recycling. We can also help with facility shutdowns and industrial cleaning.
4. Oil Waste
If your business generates a significant amount of oil waste, you may need field service, waste transportation and disposal. Waste services can provide environmentally friendly recycling and disposal. They can also offer wastewater treatment and take care of your hazardous and nonhazardous wastes.
Pros of Business Waste Management Solutions
As we’ve discussed the methods of recycling and disposal, you’ve likely gathered that there are several benefits to addressing your business’ waste management policy. A successful approach to your commercial waste can positively affect your operation and the environment in many ways.
- Savings: Using a waste management service can help your business see lower costs across several areas. It can consolidate your disposal and recycling operations into one, streamlined process. You’ll likely see lower labor costs and potentially cheaper disposal rates, along with the savings that come with fewer pickups. You may even be able to make money off of your materials while you use less of them. A waste management program can also increase the efficiency of your operation, leaving you more time for the important stuff.
- Reputation: We’ve mentioned it before, but the benefit of a green initiative for your business’ reputation is hard to overstate. Consumers are more environmentally conscious than ever, and showing them that you are too can go a long way. An increase in sustainability efforts can improve your image and even open you up to a broader market.
- Peace of mind: Being a responsible recycler requires the skills of people who know the ins and outs of waste management, which can be expensive to implement in-house. ERC has expert technicians with the knowledge and permits required to take care of your waste safely. You can rest assured that your materials are taken care of responsibly and will be efficiently processed or recycled. We make all efforts to extend the use of the materials you give us and recycle efficiently.
- Environmental impact: Of course, reducing your footprint has massive benefits for our planet. Removing pollutants, extending the life of products and materials and responsibly disposing of or reusing materials can help you make significant contributions to the health of the environment. You can lower greenhouse gas emissions, decrease the number of materials and chemicals sitting in landfills and do your part to reduce pollution.
- Easy compliance: A waste management service makes compliance easy. Depending on your operation, you may generate many different kinds of waste, and keeping up with them can be a real headache. You want to dispose of materials safely and efficiently, but it is usually more complicated than just throwing it in a dumpster. ERC can take your containerized waste and make this process as simple for you as possible. We process waste in our own disposal facility, which meets or exceeds all local, state and federal regulations. Our expert technicians can help you abide by the relevant requirements so you can rest easy knowing your materials are taken care of.
Cons of Business Waste Management Solution
Of course, waste management isn’t without its drawbacks. You still want to use disposal and recycling as little as you can — resorting to waste disposal should indicate that you’ve exhausted all efforts to reduce and reuse your materials. Reducing and reusing products can be vitally important to minimize the burden on landfills. Below are some of the difficulties associated with a waste management solution and how you can mitigate their adverse effects. You may need to select which aspects are most important to you. For example, if you care more about convenience than cost, you may want to schedule more pickups.
- Taking up space: One criticism of responsible waste disposal is that it takes up a significant amount of space. If you have a smaller business or a lack of room, this could be a big concern for you. Reduction of materials can help you minimize how much is lying around, but so can compacting them or using bales. You can also implement more frequent pickups to free up space.
- Cost: Some people may not want to pay for a waste management service when they could do it themselves. This approach still requires you to pay disposal and recycling fees and could cost you more in the long run. You’ll also have to pay for it through the increased labor costs of sorting through and disposing of trash and recyclables. Any wastes that require treatment or special care, like wastewater and hazardous materials, also require more work to be considered acceptable by disposal facilities. These aspects don’t even touch on the ease of use for management. Using a waste management service provides you peace of mind and a much simpler, streamlined process. We take care of everything, from pickup to processing, recycling and disposal. For many managers, the convenience alone makes it worth the cost.
- Contamination: Materials can become mixed in the recycling and disposal process, such as when people put food waste in with plastics. This contamination can negatively impact the recycling process, making treatment more difficult and expensive. While it takes a little more time, you can reduce these costs by sorting through your materials beforehand. Another risk with business waste management is that substances can contaminate your facility or the environment while you store them. If someone spills a drum containing hazardous waste or breaks a lightbulb, you could have a dangerous situation on your hands. To avoid this, ensure proper storage procedures, including appropriate containers, labels and handling processes.
Develop a Waste Management Solution Today
Though business waste management can be a complicated process, ERC makes it simple for you. By working with a streamlined, turnkey service provider, you can save on the costs and headaches associated with your waste disposal. We can take a variety of wastes from whatever containers work best for your operation. We can also generate custom solutions for the treatment and disposal of the materials you handle the most.
You shouldn’t have to worry about the waste your business creates — let us do that. Contact us today about how our waste management services can work for you.