Most businesses want to be environmentally aware, responsible and sustainable. The global organization Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) reports that 52% of companies cite climate change as a “very significant” sustainability focus. Additionally, about 80% of the thousands of corporate members of the United Nations Global Compact have committed to working toward at least one of its sustainable development goals.
Reaching those targets in practice, however, sometimes poses a challenge. To assist you on your road toward more streamlined and responsible waste management, we’ve put together this guide of ways to improve waste management. You can use them to develop a comprehensive, cost-effective and actionable plan for your facility.
Why Is Proper Waste Management Important for Industries?
Knowing how to dispose of waste properly is essential for many reasons. Here are some of the benefits of crafting a useful waste management plan for your business:
- Reducing environmental impact: Effective waste management enables you to minimize your company’s adverse effects on the environment. A proper waste disposal plan ensures safe, sustainable waste disposal practices to prevent waste from contaminating nearby soil and groundwater.
- Staying compliant with regulations: A robust waste management program keeps your company in compliance with local and federal laws. When business is busy, your organization may not always have time to stay apprised of regulatory changes and nuances. If you work with a professional waste management company, though, the professionals there can also keep you updated about any applicable changes in the law and ensure your facility’s compliance.
- Lowering disposal costs: Many businesses wonder whether professional waste management will be too expensive. Proper waste management services, though, can often reduce your disposal costs. Disposing of industrial waste is usually more costly than disposing of standard municipal waste, so finding ways to reuse and recycle your waste instead can curb your expenses significantly.
- Reducing your logistical burden: Proper waste management services reduce the logistical strain on your organization and its resources. When you work with a dependable waste disposal company, its professionals strategize about and handle your waste so you can focus more energy on your core business processes.
- Ensuring worker health and safety: You want your company to maintain a safe, comfortable working environment for employees. A good waste management plan helps you do that by educating your workers about safe waste handling practices and reducing the likelihood of disposal-related injuries.
10 Steps for Effective Waste Management Planning
Here are 10 steps your facility should take to manage its waste responsibly:
1. Identify the Waste Your Facility Creates
When you’re thinking about how to manage waste most effectively, the first step is to identify your waste. Run a waste audit to figure out what waste your facility generates, what volumes of those wastes it produces and what departments produce the most waste.
Identifying waste with the help of a waste audit is essential because it allows your organization to manage its waste more strategically. If you know much of your waste is regulated medical waste, you can contract with professionals who can dispose of it responsibly. If you know the bulk of your waste is wastewater that requires treatment before disposal, you can seek out a disposal company that treats wastewater at a dedicated facility.
An audit like this is also beneficial for determining where excessive waste occurs in your business. If you know most of your waste disposal practices are relatively sustainable but one department produces disproportionate amounts, you can tailor your strategies toward helping that department reduce and recycle more.
2. Identify Waste Streams
Identifying waste streams at your facility is an essential component of your waste management plan. You’ll want to know how much hazardous waste and non-hazardous waste you’re producing, as well as how much liquid and solid waste. You’ll need this information to develop targeted disposal practices for each type of waste and ensure regulatory compliance. Or you may break your waste streams down into more specific categories like biologically contaminated waste, electronic waste and vegetative debris.
To dispose of certain waste streams, you may need specialized professional services. They can mitigate the risks associated with these wastes and ensure safe, responsible practices around them.
As you identify various waste streams at your facility, be sure to gather data like this:
- What potential waste streams your facility can produce
- What local and federal laws apply to these waste streams
- How much waste each stream is likely to generate
- What risks, if any, the waste streams present
- What source reduction and hazard mitigation practices, if applicable, you can implement for each waste stream
- What criteria you will use to select storage sites and disposal methods for various waste streams
- Which waste streams your waste management facility can accept
- How much of each waste stream your waste management facility can accept
- Which waste streams are suitable for recycling or waste-to-energy programs rather than traditional disposal
3. Establish a Waste Management Team
The next step of your planning should be assembling a capable waste management team. Select responsible employees, perhaps from your existing management team, to take charge of your waste management program. If your team responsibilities will be particularly complex, consider appointing one person as the waste management coordinator. You might also consider choosing several team members to provide dedicated oversight for one waste stream apiece.
One of the main benefits of creating a waste management team is the accountability it generates. If no one is explicitly responsible for dealing with waste, this essential process may fall through the cracks. A dedicated team will put strict deadlines and protocols in place to ensure comprehensive, dependable management.
4. Assess Current Waste Disposal Methods
The next step is to evaluate your existing waste disposal methods. Take a tour of your facility and observe your performance in areas like these:
- Placement of refuse and recycling bins
- Labeling of refuse and recycling bins
- Reliability of the services that pick up your facility’s waste
Determine where your organization is strongest and where it could improve. For instance, you might notice that your recycling bins are poorly labeled, so recyclable waste goes into the trash instead. You might see that your waste bins are too far from where your processes generate waste, so the waste tends to pile up where it shouldn’t. Or you might discover that although your facility handles its waste appropriately, your disposal services fail to remove the waste on time, leaving your facility with accumulated waste that may violate regulations.
In any case, you can use the knowledge you gain from this appraisal to inform and enhance your waste management practices.
5. Consider Your Waste Hierarchy
As you plan your waste management practices, consider implementing a hierarchy that prioritizes sustainable processes like reusing and recycling over landfill disposal:
- Reduce: Start by examining where your facility can reduce its waste generation. You might discover that more material is coming into your facility than is necessary. Brainstorm ways to scale the sourcing back and minimize the amount of waste you produce.
- Reuse: Consider what types of waste your facility can repurpose. For instance, if you have a construction business, find ways to reuse leftover materials from a construction site or repurpose salvaged materials from a demolition.
- Recycle: Consider what waste you can divert from your disposal stream and break down for recycling. For instance, if you’re throwing away old electronics, look into sending them to a specialized facility that can recycle their metals. If you have waste paper, glass, metal or plastic products, check to see if you can recycle those in your area.
- Recover: Waste products you can recover for resale often include scraps of metal and leftover construction materials. With a waste-to-energy program, you may also recover energy from combusting waste.
- Dispose: Generally, everything that remains after you’ve exhausted the options above must go to a landfill. With effective waste management practices, you can often minimize the amount of waste that falls into this category and develop strategies for responsible disposal.
6. Select Waste Management Partners
One of the most critical points of your waste management plan involves choosing the right waste management partners for your business. You need a company that has experience handling the types of waste your facility produces and can help you work toward your sustainability goals.
Here are a few of the services you’ll want to look for from a potential waste management partner:
- Chemical waste management: If your facility produces chemical waste, you’ll need specialized services to handle and dispose of it. Look for trustworthy chemical waste management services that can prevent toxins from leaking into the surrounding ecosystem.
- Environmental waste and recycling services: If your facility engages in environmentally invasive processes, you may need a dependable waste management company to help you clean up your sites. Look for environmental services like lab pack services, tank cleaning, site remediation, pit and trench cleaning, industrial cleaning, air and hydro-excavation, and underground storage tank (UST) removal.
- Industrial wastewater treatment: Your facility’s wastewater may require treatment before it can undergo disposal. Look for a waste management partner that can provide ethical wastewater treatment to prevent soil and groundwater contamination.
- Liquid waste solidification: Sometimes, the best treatment for waste involves solidifying its liquid components to prevent them from leaching into the environment. Liquid waste solidification services make many types of waste, including even some medical and radioactive waste, much safer for disposal.
- Sludge and solvent management: If your facility generates silt, solvents or sludge during its operations, you may require sludge and solvent removal and recycling services. These services clean the accumulated grime from your equipment, process it and dispose of it safely while meeting applicable government regulations.
- Waste-to-energy services: Waste-to-energy programs enable you to capture energy from incinerating your waste. Your facility can either use the energy, making its consumption practices more sustainable, or send it along for homes and businesses to use.
- Waste transportation: To dispose of your facility’s waste, your waste management company will first have to transport it, potentially over substantial distances. You’ll want to choose a company with sustainable waste transportation services that can move your waste safely and reduce the risk of spills and pollution along the way.
7. Set Targets for Waste Reduction
As part of your waste management strategy, you should also set facility goals to work toward. Before implementing your new waste management plans, measure and quantify your existing waste management practices so you’ll have a baseline to work from.
Then set targets you’d like your facility to reach. For instance, you might want to reduce your waste disposal volumes by 20% or see no compliance violations during six months. When you meet your target, celebrate with your team, and then set new goals so your facility’s operations consistently become more sustainable.
8. Create a Waste Management Action Plan
Along similar lines, your facility may wish to develop a waste management action plan. For best results, consider formalizing the plan in writing and displaying it where employees can read it frequently.
Your action plan should contain specific, detailed procedures for separating your facility’s various types of waste, getting waste to its proper containers and arranging disposal pickups. It should also include the protocols you will follow to ensure compliance and address the procurement of adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect your employees from contaminated waste.
9. Train Employees on New Procedures
Even the best-crafted waste management action plan won’t provide results if your employees don’t understand or feel engaged with the new procedures. You’ll likely want to make a company-wide announcement of the new policies and then set up training sessions for your workers to increase their familiarity, confidence and investment.
You should also educate your staff about the company’s sustainability targets. Doing so will give employees context for the new processes and provide goals to strive for.
10. Track Your Progress and Monitor for Adjustments
Over time, track your organization’s progress toward its goals, and alter your processes as necessary to enable consistent achievements. For instance, you should record the new costs of your waste management program, compare them to your goal costs and tweak your strategies if you’re coming in over budget.
If your progress doesn’t measure up to your expectations at first, there’s still plenty of reason for optimism. You can always adjust your waste management goals and try again. Over time, this process will lead your facility toward substantial gains in environmental responsibility and sustainability.
Implement Your Waste Management Plan With the Help of Environmental Recovery Corporation
For the best results in putting your waste management plan into action, work with VLS. As industry leaders in waste handling and disposal, we have extensive expertise in all aspects of waste management. We are happy to consult with your business to help you budget for, develop and implement a cost-effective waste management strategy.
When you work with us to process your residual wastes, you’ll also gain the peace of mind of knowing you’ve partnered with a trusted, ecologically aware company. We take our obligations to environmental responsibility seriously, and we want to help your company work toward its sustainability and compliance goals.
Contact us today to schedule a consultation or get started with waste management services.