Budgeting for Your Company’s Waste Disposal

As companies budget for the new year, they need to leave room for waste disposal costs. Businesses generate millions of tons of residual waste each year. For example, according to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Pennsylvania’s businesses produce at least 20 million tons of solid residual waste annually. Paper mills, steel manufacturers and printing operations are among the largest waste creators in the state. These companies need a way to safely and efficiently dispose of the waste they produce during regular operations. Waste disposal costs money. But it doesn’t have to cost too much.


Some businesses might clump waste disposal expenses with utility bills and not think much more of it. If a business ignores waste-related costs, it misses opportunities to recognize inefficient waste management activities. On the other hand, if a company measures and tracks its waste, it can make changes to improve its current system. Creating a waste disposal budget is part of this process.


Consider the following case study provided by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency: An automotive manufacturing company uses conventional paint spray guns, which waste 60% of the base coat. The wasted paint costs the company over $12.5 million a year. By improving the efficiency of their paint guns by 10%, this company could save $2 million in raw materials. They’d also save money by reducing wastewater treatment and sludge disposal costs. As you can see, it’s crucial to recognize waste and how much it can impact a company’s bottom line.


Creating a waste disposal budget is well worth the effort. In this guide, we’ll help you get started and cover the following topics:

  • How to create a waste management plan
  • What the disposal budget needs to cover
  • How to calculate waste management costs
  • How to save on waste management
  • How to make the most of your waste disposal budget
  • How we can help boost efficiency and savings

At Environmental Recovery Corporation (ERC), we are all about helping our clients save on disposal costs while reducing their carbon footprint. To learn more about our services and how we can improve your waste management plan, reach out to us at ERC today!

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Chapter 1: What Will This Waste Disposal Budget Need to Cover?

Most of us have seen waste collectors show up at homes or businesses, empty dumpsters and drive away. It seems like a simple process, but it’s much more than meets the eye — especially for businesses that produce various types of waste. Waste management includes many factors such as labor, the use of treatment chemicals and equipment, and storing waste until it can be removed. All of these factors cost money, and these expenses add up fast.


This doesn’t mean you need to bring your pickup to work and start loading waste materials yourself. Setting a budget and keeping track of expenses help bring hidden costs to light, and therefore make them more manageable. As the saying goes, knowing is half the battle. In this chapter, we’ll help you create a budget and effective waste management plan.

What to Include in a Disposal Budget

Your waste disposal budget should include direct and indirect costs. Direct costs are those expenses which are easy to see and track, such as:

  • Waste collection costs
  • Treatment costs

For example, you may have already included the price of a monthly disposal service in your budget.

However, many costs are indirect, which are hidden and hard to track. Indirect costs are related to:

  • Wasted raw materials
  • Energy and water consumption
  • Packaging waste
  • Effluent generation
  • Office consumables
  • Labor

For example, did you factor in the cost of lost metalworking fluids when you budgeted for waste disposal? How about the cost of paying employees to mop up oil waste? One Ohio manufacturer spends over $11,000 a year on labor to manage oil waste.


The point is that, before you can create a waste disposal budget, you need to have an idea of how much you’re spending on waste. This depends on the type of waste generated and what’s required to dispose of the waste safely.

Don’t Forget Hidden Costs

Think of the raw materials you use in the production process at your facility. Raw materials and labor are commonly overlooked waste costs. Raw material costs refer to elements that are wasted and do not become part of the product. So, if a furniture manufacturer does not turn 15% of their lumber into a finished product, they need to budget for the wasted lumber as well as the cost of disposing of the waste and the expense of labor involved.


Water and energy waste are also easy-to-overlook expenses. A manufacturer might spend over $60,000 a year to treat and dispose of wastewater generated during the manufacturing process, including labor costs. But what about the energy a facility uses to treat thousands of gallons of water a day before discharging the wastewater? To get a real sense of your budget, you need to include every expense related to waste.


This doesn’t mean you need to have an exact number. Your budget will serve as a guide and not as a rulebook. You can start creating your budget by estimating the types and amounts of waste your business will likely produce over the next year and considering the method of disposal you plan to use. If you need assistance, you can use last year’s numbers as a guide.


As a whole, your company budget should include items such as projected sales for the budget period and fixed costs such as utilities and rent. Make sure to Include waste disposal in the fixed cost category. Stick to the budget as much as possible, but allow yourself room to revise it as needed.


Creating a waste disposal budget is simple when you work with experts. At ERC, we can conduct an audit to help you determine your waste disposal costs and ways to save.

How to Create a Waste Management Plan

Once you recognize the type and amount of waste generated at your facility, you can develop a strategy to increase efficiency and lower costs. This strategy will be your waste management plan.


Your waste management plan will serve as a guide to show employees how to reduce, recycle and handle waste. It will also demonstrate how to reach the company’s waste management and sustainability goals. To create a waste management plan, take the following steps:

1. Conduct an Audit

Conduct a waste audit and gather data.

An audit will give you a much clearer idea of how much waste your facility produces and show you areas that need improvement.


To conduct the assessment, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests examining records, observing the current activities in your facility and sorting waste. You may only need one of these activities for the audit or a combination of all three. Here’s how they work:

  • Records examination: Examine your company’s waste disposal records to look for patterns and get an idea of how much waste your facility generates. Look at inventory logs, material invoices, and waste disposal and recycling records. You can also ask your disposal service provider for records to determine your average monthly waste generation. Records should also give you insight into the type of waste your facility produces and how often it’s disposed of.
  • Facility walk-through: A walk-through is a quick way to observe how your facility produces and manages waste. During the walk-through, talk to employees and managers about waste disposal methods. Look around and consider how different departments operate and the resources they use. Identify any equipment or activities that are inefficient and produce waste. Think about what your company currently does to reduce waste and how it can improve.
  • Waste sort: A waste sort is when you gather a sample of waste, sort and weigh it to measure and calculate your company’s total waste generation more closely. It will also help you identify which materials can be sold, reused or recycled rather than tossed. If you need assistance, we can help at ERC. During our on-site audit, our technicians will track waste streams from generation to disposal and take samples along the way. They’ll identify recyclable materials and liquids and determine the most efficient and environmentally responsible disposal methods for your company.

2. Set Goals

After you assess the waste generation in your facility, you’ll be ready to set realistic goals. Use the results of your assessment to help you determine where you can reduce waste and improve current activities. For example, if you found a large amount of garbage mixed with recyclables, make it a goal to educate employees about recycling.

It helps to form a team to brainstorm waste reduction goals using the insights gained from the audit. Focus on the activities that are feasible and promise the greatest improvements. The EPA suggests the following approaches when analyzing your data and setting goals:

  • Focus on prevention first: Focus on preventing waste above all else. This reduces the amount of waste produced at the source and will ultimately save your company on energy, labor and resource costs.
  • Evaluate what you can’t prevent: Asses your facility’s recycling activities and consider how recycling and composting options can help you manage waste that can’t be prevented. You might set specific goals like increasing the number of paper products recycled in each department.
  • Set clear goals: Start with a few clear goals you and employees can easily reach. After waste prevention and recycling become part of your team’s routine, consider setting goals that require more effort. For example, you might start by motivating employees to bring their own coffee mugs to work rather than use disposable cups. This is a straightforward goal others can reach right away. An example of a bigger goal that may require more time and planning is replacing old machinery with new efficient pieces of equipment.

The key is to keep goals simple and make sure employees understand what’s expected of them. Offer incentives, if possible, to encourage employees to reach waste reduction goals. For example, you might divide departments into teams and reward those who’ve recycled the most boxes.

3. Determine the Best Disposal Method

When it comes to determining the most efficient and cost-saving way to dispose of waste, you have several options. Waste disposal depends on factors such as:

  • Whether the waste is solid or liquid
  • The type of waste and if it’s hazardous or nonhazardous
  • Federal, state and local regulations
  • The location of the disposal site
  • The disposal company’s policies

Whatever you cannot reuse, recycle or compost must be disposed of in compliance with regulations.

You need to identify the best way to handle each waste stream as well as the appropriate disposal service. Waste disposal methods might include:

  • Wastewater treatment: Treatment involves a chemical process that removes oils and solids from wastewater and makes it safe and compliant for disposal.
  • Oil recycling: Many industrials oils, such as heating fuels and machine shop oils, can be recycled.
  • Solidification: Solidification is a way to treat liquid waste and form it into a solid material. This prevents liquid waste from leaching into the environment and leads to safe disposal.
  • Waste-to-energy: Waste-to-energy is the process of generating energy from discarded materials. Incineration is a common waste-to-energy method. In other words, residual waste is burned to power generators. Waste-to-energy companies keep 90,000 tons of waste out of landfills every day.
  • Landfill transfer: A disposal service might transfer nonhazardous industrial waste, such as construction debris, to a landfill.
  • Containerized waste recycling and disposal: This method involves the removal of drums, barrels or totes containing hazardous or nonhazardous waste.

To learn more about waste disposal options in the Mid-Atlantic region, check out ERC’s responsible waste solutions.

4. Consider Storage

Consider how waste is separated and stored in your facility until it’s collected. In general, it’s best to use the least amount of containers as possible to reduce the number of pickups and maximize floor space. Facilities also need to follow regulations when it comes to properly storing waste.


For example, under Pennsylvania law, facilities are required to store residual waste safely. They are responsible for controlling runoff and emissions and preventing the mixing of hazardous with nonhazardous waste. Companies must maintain facilities that do not put their workers or the public at risk.


When you think about your company’s storage methods, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are storage containers easily accessible?
  • Are there enough containers needed for the amount of waste produced?
  • Is it safe for employees to use waste storage areas?
  • Is the waste storage area designated as such?
  • Is your disposal service provider scheduled to remove waste often enough to prevent overflow into other areas, even if they must arrive weekly?
  • Is someone responsible for keeping track of waste as it’s deposited?
  • Are waste containers labeled properly?

Have you discovered ways to improve your current storage situation? When you optimize storage areas, you can potentially reduce the number of pickups your facility sees each month.

5. Monitor Waste Streams

Another important aspect of your waste management plan involves monitoring. You’ll need to monitor waste streams continually to see if waste is being reduced. Check waste containers to make sure they hold the proper materials, and if they don’t, meet with managers and discuss ways to fix the problem. Periodically review your waste management goals and consider what’s working and what needs to be adjusted.

What Your Waste Management Plan Should Include

Overall, your waste management plan should include the following information:

  • The person or people responsible for managing waste in your facility
  • Goals and objectives, which may include training staff and purchasing more efficient equipment
  • Types and estimated amounts of waste generated in your facility
  • Ways to handle and use materials safely
  • A way to track and measure progress

If you have all of this info in your plan, you’ll be on your way to savings and less waste.

What Is the Purpose of a Waste Management Plan?

It’s essential to know how much waste your company produces and how much it costs so you can manage and reduce expenses. Otherwise, if you can’t see what you’re wasting, you can’t take steps to control it. Your waste management plan serves as a map to help you and employees navigate waste reduction. Your plan can help you:

  • Spend less money on purchasing raw materials
  • Provide customers with the sustainable products they demand
  • Save more money by reusing materials
  • Reduce accidents onsite by organizing and adequately labeling storage areas
  • Comply with regulations
  • Decrease your carbon footprint
  • Benefit the community and your company’s reputation
  • Improve efficiency

What Are the Different Types of Waste?

Waste may either be hazardous or nonhazardous. Both types of waste must be handled separately and through safe disposal methods.

Hazardous Waste

According to the EPA, hazardous waste is dangerous and can harm humans or the environment.

Hazardous waste may come in liquid, solid, gas or sludge form. It can be created by just about any industry. Hazardous waste might include:

  • EPA-listed hazardous wastes, such as discarded commercial chemical products or wastewater from petroleum refineries
  • Any waste that is considered toxic, corrosive, flammable or reactive
  • Common dangerous materials such as batteries, pesticides and objects containing mercury
  • Electronic waste containing hazardous components such as TVs, refrigerators and old computers

Hazardous waste must be handled by professionals and cannot be thrown in the dumpster. It also must be stored and labeled correctly.

Nonhazardous Waste

Nonhazardous wastes are considered less harmful to the environment and humans. Residual waste refers to nonhazardous industrial waste or material produced by commercial, agricultural or mining operations. Nonhazardous residual waste may come in the form of a solid, liquid or gas. Residual waste does not include garbage from offices or break rooms.


According to the DEP, Pennsylvania businesses generate nearly twice as much residual waste as they do hazardous and municipal waste combined. In Pennsylvania, ash from coal-burning plants and incinerators makes up about 40% of the state’s residual waste stream. Other examples of common residual waste include:

  • Contaminated soil
  • Leather
  • Rubber
  • Textiles
  • Ceramics
  • Glass
  • Piping
  • Paper
  • Fertilizers
  • Metal scraps
  • Concrete
  • Bricks
  • Scrap wood

Although residual waste includes materials that are not defined as hazardous by the EPA, it does cover near-hazardous materials. In other words, even residual waste must be handled properly because it still could harm humans or the environment.


Identifying waste is a complex process and can be tricky unless you’re an expert in the field. If you’re unsure about the type of waste your business generates or have questions about proper disposal methods, reach out to us at ERC, and we’ll be happy to set you up with an efficient, compliant disposal service.

How Can Waste Management Be Improved?

According to the EPA, nearly 140 million tons of municipal solid waste was sent to landfills in 2017, which doesn’t include industrial residual waste or hazardous waste. Everyone should make it a goal to reduce waste and follow the five Rs, which are refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle and rot, to keep landfills from running out of space. Use incentives to motivate employees to follow the five Rs and make sure to set clear, achievable goals.

Here are ways to apply each R and improve waste management:

1. Refuse

Refuse items that are not needed for daily operations and only buy materials and services your business needs to run successfully. If you want to accept new items, consider how you would use excess materials, and whether you plan to donate them, recycle them or even need them in the first place. Send back any supplies or materials that have been damaged during their ride to your facility. Refuse excessive packaging from suppliers when possible.

2. Reduce

Most businesses will find they can afford to reduce waste in their facility. For example, an office can reduce paper waste by printing on both sides, or a manufacturer can work with an engineer to design more efficient packaging for its products. Consider organizing a “green team” to help plan, design and implement waste reduction in your facility. Your green team should consist of employees who are excited to reach recycling and waste reduction goals.

3. Reuse

Reusing materials keeps them from the waste bin longer and saves you from having to purchase new items right away. You might have to repair or wash items before you can use them again, but it’s worth the effort.


Strive to reuse as many items as possible. Suggest ways employees can reuse items, such as boxes, office supplies and packaging materials to reduce waste. You might also provide a way for employees to donate materials to nonprofit organizations.


Rather than think of waste as something that belongs in the trash, think of it as a resource first. Always try to choose materials you can reuse whenever you can.

4. Recycle

It’s hard to imagine that the United States landfilled or burned the paper of 387 million trees in 2014. You and your employees can help reduce this number by recycling, and it doesn’t need to be hard.


Set achievable recycling goals everyone can accomplish. This might begin with something as simple as placing more recycling bins around your facility. Make it fun for employees to recycle and provide incentives to help your company reach its waste reduction goals. For example, you might hold recycling competitions and reward the winners with gift cards. Place recycling bins next to garbage cans to make it easy to recycle and label containers with colorful, clear signs. Purchase recyclable materials when possible and aim to recycle whatever you cannot reuse. Management should set a goal to keep track of recycling activities.

5. Rot

Composting allows organic materials like food scraps to decompose naturally and keeps waste out of landfills. Compost or reduce food waste whenever possible. Food waste is usually heavy, which means it also costs more to remove.


Place bins for compostable items such as fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, sawdust and other organic materials near recycling and trash containers. This makes it accessible to employees and easy to contribute.


Chapter 2: How Expensive Is Waste Disposal?
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