5 Ways to Improve Your Facility's Waste Management Program in 2019

Waste Management

Whether you run a restaurant, grocery store, retail center, movie theater, or any number of other waste-creating businesses, there is high chance that your facility is not operating as efficiently as it could when it comes to waste management. There is room for growth everywhere - as long as your facility is not already certified zero waste, that is. In 2019, as sustainability continues to come to the forefront of the business world, it is important not to overlook the opportunity to enhance your waste management program in order to not only reduce environmental impact, but to minimize costs and maximize productivity, too.

If this goal sounds like it could benefit your facility, below are five steps we suggest taking to improve your waste management program:

1. Conduct an Audit of your Waste Stream

Conducting a waste stream audit will help determine the quantity and type of waste that is habitually being thrown away at your facility. Having a better understanding of what is being tossed will help you make crucial decisions at the beginning of your waste management improvement journey. It can identify areas for waste reduction, diversion, recycling or reusing. For instance, you might be throwing out much more cardboard than you realize, when instead your facility could be recycling that material and diverting it away from the landfill. Or, you could have high amounts of recycling contamination in your bins - something that can be counterproductive to recycling efforts and harmful to the earth, and can be improved with employee education. Conducting a waste audit can help your organization become more cost-effective by showing you what types of waste you create, and therefore what types of waste you should reduce. It can also help avoid additional disposal and hauling costs. Many organizations have identified potential savings and revenue opportunities after performing a waste audit, which makes it the perfect first step in the road to efficiency in 2019.

2. Conduct an Audit of Services

Once you have conducted a waste stream audit, you should conduct an audit of your waste management services. Ask yourself: where can your facility save money? We suggest to first look at your current hauling schedule. Do you know how often your hauler is coming each week? If not, it’s important to know the frequency of pickups to ensure your containers and bins are only being collected when they are full. You may need to consider changing the frequency of collection, if you notice the times of pickup for your containers or bins are not full. Less frequent pickups not only save you money, but also reduces the gas used by your hauler, resulting in less greenhouse gases being released into the environment. Being aware of these factors not only streamlines the program, but will save your organization money and promote sustainability.

When auditing your current waste management program, another easy step is to revise or rebid with your waste hauler. Decide whether changes need to be made with your hauler after evaluating your current waste costs and habits. Once your waste hauling contract expires, you can negotiate a rebid. If you make necessary changes in your contract, it can essentially lower your overall disposal cost. However, if your waste hauler is not willing to negotiate a cheaper price, we recommend requesting quotes from other vendors willing to negotiate a more cost-effective contract for your organization.

3. Reduce Generated Waste

After the initial research and service audits are complete, it’s time to take action to reduce the amount of waste your facility generates as a whole. Look at your waste stream audit and pinpoint where it is most feasible to cut back, as waste prevention and recycling can save your facility money while lessening your environmental footprint. For example: if your restaurant throws away massive amounts of single-use plastic straws, consider only providing them to guests upon request, or switching to paper straws which can be recycled. Perhaps your movie theater gives six napkins with each popcorn order; if you reduce this number to three, you would save thousands of napkins a week from getting left unused on the theater floor. Encourage all employees or staff to be conscious when tossing away items, ask themselves if they can recycle, reuse, compost or donate it, depending on what it is. Having that mindset and encouraging your employees to do the same will help you reduce waste notably.

4. Set Short and Long-Term Waste Reduction Goals

Now that the ball is rolling, it’s important to measure your successes and areas of improvement. Setting short-term and long-term goals ensures that your facility will not forget about its plan later in the year, and acts as a reminder to continually optimize your waste management program. Goals can be simple (reduce overall waste generated by 10 percent) or high-reaching (become zero waste by 2020). Either way, they act as a motivator throughout the year.

5. Engage Your Employees

Once you have set your waste reduction goals, it’s important to engage and educate your employees. Explain the benefits of an efficient waste management program, communicate your goals internally and encourage everyone in your organization to make a difference. This will allow sustainability to become embedded in your company culture throughout the year. Keep employees engaged with proper training on new policies and by gamifying different challenges, like a “zero waste lunch” or “paperless Wednesdays,” where there are prizes for different completion rates. They will reap the rewards of a job well done, and your program will flourish under its new enhancements.

Overall, no matter how large or small your goal is in 2019, the important thing is that you start this year off with a commitment to sustainability. Whether you make minor tweaks or major overhauls, your facility - and the environment - will benefit from an efficient, streamlined waste management program.