Chapter 3: Where to Save Money and When to Splurge

Business wouldn’t be business without financial goals.  A thoughtful waste management plan saves companies money and doesn’t add to expenses. There are plenty of simple ways companies can reduce their waste disposal bills and decrease their carbon footprint even without investing in new equipment or hiring more staff. But, sometimes, it’s worth paying higher upfront costs on certain items and services if it’ll boost productivity and slash bills in the long run.

As you’ll see, cutting costs isn’t always the best option. In this chapter, you’ll learn how businesses can cut down on waste and save. We’ll also discuss reasons to spend if it means an improved waste management plan.

How to Save Money on Waste Management

There’s no better way to say it — waste management in itself saves money. It’s pretty simple.

If you create less waste, you spend less on waste removal. Even small changes add up and make a difference.


For example, according to The New York Times, the cereal company General Mills shrank its box sizes. By doing so, the company saved 890,000 pounds of paper fiber and drastically reduced transportation costs. Likewise, Kraft decreased its dressing bottle size to reduce its weight by almost 19 percent. This boosts shipping efficiency by 18% and saves over 1,300 tons of plastic each year. All of this translates to substantial savings.


No matter the size of your business, you can take an eco-friendly approach to waste management, which will reduce the amount of waste you produce and related disposal costs. Overall, waste reduction is the biggest way to save. With that said, here are more tips to help you decrease waste and removal expenses:

  • Make sure haulers aren’t taking away half-empty bins and ensure pickups are scheduled only when bins are full.
  • Check your waste bills for fees, such as overflow charges, and fix the issue.
  • Evaluate your dumpsters and downsize if possible, especially if a recycling plan is expected to decrease the number of materials your business throws away.
  • Partner with a waste management company like ERC which offers a “less than load” solution.
  • Consider sharing waste costs with a neighboring business.
  • Consider selling certain materials, like scrap metal, rather than add them to the waste pile.
  • Only print when necessary, using recycled paper, and encourage employees to do the same.
  • Buy recycled products and refurbished equipment when possible.
  • Replace plastic utensils and cups with silverware and glasses.
  • Install automatic hand dryers in restrooms.
  • Make sure HVAC systems are well-maintained.
  • Consider using a compost bin.
  • Fix water leaks.
  • Use cleaning products in refillable containers.
  • Use rechargeable batteries.
  • Turn equipment off and unplug devices at the end of the day.
  • Shred wasted paper and reuse it as packaging material or encourage employees to take paper home.
  • Donate materials to local organizations.
  • Invest in a compactor to save space and decrease the need for waste pickups.
  • Reduce packaging when you can and use sustainable materials.

As mentioned in Chapter 1, if you reduce, reuse and recycle whenever possible, you’ll save on waste disposal costs. Disposal should be the last resort for waste.

How Do You Save Money by Recycling?

According to the United States Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG), over half of America’s garbage is recyclable or reusable. For example, municipal garbage includes 26% paper products, 6% wood and nearly 13% plastic — all items that can be recycled.


The manufacturing and construction industries are not much different when it comes to tossing out recyclable materials. For example, up to 12% of construction waste is cardboard.


The majority of waste is recyclable or compostable, yet only a small percentage of it actually gets recycled. Here are reasons to focus on improving recycling in your facility:

  • Recycling the same volume of materials typically costs less than disposing of it in the garbage.
  • You can sell or donate recyclable or reusable items rather than add them to your waste disposal bill.
  • You show customers you care about protecting the environment when you recycle, which can be a reason for them to choose your company over a competitor.
  • Recycling reduces waste and therefore decreases waste removal costs.
  • By reusing your materials rather than throwing them out, you don’t have to purchase new items, and you save space because you don’t have to store waste.

How much money can you save by recycling? Let’s look at Vermont as an example. Vermont started a Pay as You Throw (PAYT) program, which requires residents to pay to dispose of trash by weight or volume. Only six months after the town of Vernon started PAYT, it slashed its average weekly garbage amount in half. The town expects to save $140,00 a year due to PAYT.


Recycling can be simple. The first step is identifying departments in your facility that need improvement and then make it easy for employees to recycle by placing labeled bins in accessible areas. Encourage workers to recycle everyday materials such as:

  • Paper
  • Cardboard
  • Plastic
  • Glass
  • Metal

In an office setting, you’ll often find recyclable materials in the form of:

  • Magazines
  • Newspapers
  • Office paper
  • Cardboard boxes
  • Aluminum cans
  • Plastic bottles
  • Electronics
  • Toner and ink cartridges

In a manufacturing setting, you’ll find recyclables in:

  • Packaging materials
  • Used oil
  • Tires
  • Batteries
  • Scrap metal
  • Appliances and equipment
  • Textiles
  • Steel

It also saves to buy recycled products. For instance, a division of American Airlines saved over $100,000 by switching to recycled paper, according to Harvard Business Review. You can also save money by purchasing recycled materials, such as recycled aluminum. Here are recycled and refurbished supplies you might buy for your business:

  • Tissues, toilet paper and paper towels
  • Cardboard containers
  • Packaging materials
  • Oil
  • Construction materials
  • Office furniture and machinery

When Not to Cut Costs

Cutting costs isn’t always worth it in business. For example, saving money by purchasing lower quality equipment may not be the best long-term investment due to waste generation and inefficiency.

On the contrary, high-quality equipment can reduce the need to buy replacement parts and may be easier and less costly to maintain.


You might also consider investing in solar panels, which can potentially save you thousands of dollars over time. It’s also worth investing in employee education and training to spread awareness about the importance of recycling and waste reduction.


Lastly, using the services of a trusted and environmentally responsible waste disposal company minimizes risks and can save your company time, money and waste. A dependable company like ERC consolidates your disposal and recycling process into a single stress-free process.


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