A solid waste management plan is important for your business or organization because it can help to lower operating costs and increase overall efficiency. On top of that, you can potentially boost your organization’s environmental credibility.
To help you create an effective plan, we consulted sustainability experts from universities around the country.
Keep these tips in mind when developing a written waste management plan for your small business or growing organization.
Start with a waste audit to determine which kinds of waste you generate. For example, if you’re a contractor planning a project, you’ll most likely be handling drywall, concrete, paint and other construction debris. And if you’re managing the waste at your office, you’ll be tossing paper, food waste, boxes and other office supplies.
You can conduct a waste audit on your own or bring in a waste management specialist to provide professional guidance. If you’re handling the audit yourself, make sure your data is as accurate and complete as possible so you can focus your efforts on your biggest problem areas.
At Stanford University, Fahmida Ahmed works in collaboration with their waste manager, an analyst and many additional members of the Stanford community to collect waste data and identify areas for improvement. “We focused a lot on making sure that we have as much information as possible on our waste sources before jumping into a solution,” says Fahmida Ahmed.
“We are at a waste diversion rate of 64% - nothing to sneeze at, but we want to do better. And we want to get to the highest diversion rate possible, which is why we wanted to take a more comprehensive look at our waste practices today.”
Fahmida Ahmed | Director of Sustainability, Stanford University
Document any trends that emerge during your audit. This will allow you to compare data and track your progress in reducing waste.
Now that you have the data, ask yourself where you can improve. What do you throw away most often? How can you minimize that waste? Strategize with your team members to find solutions and make a plan for implementing them. Make sure your goals are specific and measurable so you can evaluate progress over time. To meet your goals, assign someone on your team to oversee your waste management plan and encourage everyone to participate. With a clear set of processes, your team will be more likely to achieve your waste goal.
Identify the best methods to tackle each of your waste streams. To keep your plan on track, implement a daily system and distribute tasks for individuals to maintain. If you’re running a restaurant, for example, identify a destination for food scraps, broken dishware, paper products and so on. If you’re a property manager or running a growing organization, hiring and training a custodial staff to properly maintain on-site waste is essential.
Jennifer McMillin shares the daily waste processes carried out by custodial staff at Cleveland State University:
You can also consider using the following strategies to work toward your waste reduction goals.
Investigate your recycling options and make it a priority to cut back on waste wherever possible. Not only is this an eco-friendly way of conducting business, but it will also cut costs for you in the long run.
Many organizations have already adopted paper recycling. But composting your biodegradable waste can make an even bigger dent in your waste production. “The time for biodegradables to go in their right place has really come,” Ahmed says. “We really think if both individuals as well as the department processes really make sure that biodegradables are no longer ending up in recycling or the landfill, that would improve our diversion rate a significant amount.”
To reduce biodegradable waste, many restaurants have hired food scrap recycling services. Some have even started composting on-site. On a larger-scale, universities manage waste from hundreds of students, faculty and staff every day across cafeterias and multiple cafes.
For example, Wesleyan University collected nearly 40 tons of food waste last semester. About 2 tons were processed for composting for use on their two-acre campus farm and the rest goes to an anaerobic digestion facility. Here, energy is generated from the methane released, then compost is produced for off-site use. “It took about a year to get the dining staff accustomed to it. But we now have pre- and post-consumer composting collections at our two dining halls as well as the two main cafes on campus,” Jennifer Kleindienst says.
To minimize the room for error, it’s important to place the appropriate containers in locations that are easily accessible. Label or place signs above each receptacle to make proper disposal as easy as possible.
“Behavior change is possible, especially with clear signage and availability of waste composting bins dispersed in the right places across campus so there is no opportunity for error.”
Fahmida Ahmed | Director of Sustainability, Stanford University
At Cleveland State University, the composting program saves a thousand pounds of food waste per week from hitting the landfill by partnering with a local industrial composting facility, Full Cycle Organics. On top of that, CSU plans to launch a new element to their composting program – compostable tableware. All utensils used in catered events will soon be switched from plastic to plant-based as part of an effort to increase the university’s recycling rate by 5 percent.
Hazardous items are prohibited in your dumpster and cannot be recycled. Products such as oils, paints, batteries and medical waste require special disposal as they can be toxic, flammable or unsafe for humans and the environment. If your waste stream contains hazardous materials, you will need to find a local collection facility to safely handle them.
Your waste management plan will help you to send less trash to the landfill, but you may still need a dumpster for non-recyclable and non-hazardous items. Our experienced team at Dumpsters.com is here to help you set up trash collection for the materials you can’t divert. Already a customer? We can swap in a smaller dumpster size or schedule less frequent pickups as your diversion rate increases. Dial 844-444-DUMP to get started today.
Monitor your waste streams to determine if the amount of waste you’re generating changes after your first waste audit. Based on this information, you can check whether your waste management plan still meets your needs. If your plan is successful and your waste diversion rate improves, celebrate your success. This is also a good time to set new goals or focus on a different problem area.
Evaluating your waste stream, strategizing improvements and building out a solid waste management plan can help you to cut costs and even limit your environmental impact.
What steps does your business or organization take to reduce waste? Let us know in the comments below.