Green initiatives are popular, and for good reason — we all want to do our part to preserve a green planet for the generations to come. In 2017, the United States recycled or composted more than 94 million tons of municipal solid waste, and many businesses proudly tout their green construction, waste reduction initiatives and sustainable processes.
How can waste be recycled? Knowing what waste disposal methods to use and what materials you can recycle isn’t always straightforward. In this guide, we discuss some different types of waste disposal methods, the benefits of knowing what is and isn’t recyclable and how a waste management company can streamline your disposal and recycling processes.
Why Is Recycling Important?
Recycling provides many valuable advantages for businesses and for the environment. Below are a few of the benefits of recycling:
1. Protecting Natural Resources
Recycling helps protect our natural resources. Throwing recyclable items into the trash means tons of unnecessary garbage will make its way into landfills. If it doesn’t biodegrade, it will stay there for years, decades or even centuries, leaching toxic chemicals into the soil and groundwater. And it may not remain in the landfill or end up there at all. As much as 8 million metric tons of plastic can enter the ocean in a single year, poisoning and malnourishing the animals that consume it and killing many other animals in entanglements.
Recycling also helps protect the environment by reducing the amount of carbon emissions released into the air. Recycling old products takes much less energy and burns much less fossil fuel than creating new ones — for instance, using recycled aluminum to make aluminum cans requires 95% less energy than making aluminum cans from scratch using bauxite ore. Recycling keeps harmful greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere and helps slow the profoundly detrimental effects of climate change.
2. Staying Compliant With Waste Regulations
Recycling helps your business remain in compliance with the law. Many municipalities have regulations establishing what waste can go into landfills and what cannot.
In the case of hazardous waste, federal and state regulations can be extremely stringent. Keeping up with these regulations, especially as they evolve, can present a challenge for many businesses, particularly if your company is unused to focusing on regulatory compliance.
Knowing how to recycle waste properly can help. Just as you don’t want to throw waste away when you can recycle it, you don’t want to recycle it when it should undergo specific, regulated disposal. Your facility will need to stay informed about the requirements in your area.
3. Improving Your Green Credentials
Improving your green credentials means making your business stand out as committed to eco-friendly policies and procedures. It can help make you a leader in sustainable business practices. When other companies want to collaborate with a conscientious, socially engaged business partner, your name will likely come to mind.
If your business is known in your industry to be a leader in sustainability, other talented, like-minded people will likely want to work with you as well. You’ll attract conscientious, thoughtful employees, improve their morale at work by giving them an eco-friendly initiative to feel good about and probably be able to retain them longer.
4. Saving Money
Recycling helps your business save money — and even gain money in some cases. Improper waste disposal can lead to substantial fines, which become especially hefty if you incur them repeatedly. Disposing of your waste properly helps you keep those funds securely in your bank account. And if your landfill charges by weight or volume, keeping recyclables out of your garbage can help keep you from paying as many fees.
In some cases, recycling can help your business obtain money as well. Recyclables are commodities, so depending on the composition of your recycling, you may be able to sell it to other companies — for instance, you may be able to sell old electronics or separated recyclables like metals, plastics and glass. Grants from environmentally focused nonprofits or government agencies are also sometimes available to incentivize the creation of recycling programs at local businesses.
5. Strengthening Your Business Image
Recycling can help bolster your business image and improve your standing with your customers. Many customers aren’t shopping only to get the most for their money. They also want to partner with companies that operate sustainably and demonstrate genuine care for the world around them. Recycling helps you burnish your forward-thinking, socially conscious image with your clients. They’ll be more likely to work with you, recommend you to others and give you their loyalty.
Types of Waste Disposal and Management Methods
How do businesses dispose of waste? Waste disposal requires a few different management techniques depending on its composition. Here are a few of those methods:
1. Landfill Disposal
Landfill disposal involves burying waste material in the ground. Non-hazardous wastes may go to standard landfills, and some hazardous wastes go to lined landfills with concrete bases that can prevent toxic chemicals from leaching into the surrounding environment. Many wastes also require specialized transportation services to ensure safe and responsible transit.
Waste disposal and recycling services make up a substantial portion of solid waste management — at VLS, our disposal services even use their own dedicated facility. It is becoming less common, though, as landfills fill up and space is at a premium.
2. Treatment and Disposal
In some cases, waste must undergo treatment before it can go to a landfill. Often, the treatment makes the waste less hazardous and ensures that a leak would not pose grave harms to local ecosystems or public health. Treatment can also change the composition of non-hazardous waste so the waste won’t pollute the environment.
Waste treatment can take several different forms. Services like industrial sludge management can remove, treat and dispose of sludge and dredged materials. At VLS, we operate a unique processing facility for customized treatment solutions.
Recycling takes both solid and liquid waste that is contaminated or still has value and converts it into a form ideal for use in new products, processes or treated and returned to the environment. Recycling may extract usable components from discarded parts, or it may repurpose an entire piece of material. It reduces landfill use, cuts down on the carbon emissions associated with the production of new materials and decreases the amount of pollution in the atmosphere.
Not all recycling processes repurpose everyday materials like glass, plastic and metal. Waste disposal services like VLS can also dispose of and recycle materials like waste drums, industrial paint waste chemical waste Bulk Liquid Waste and Waste Oil.
4. Energy Recovery or Waste to Energy (WTE)
Energy recovery or waste-to-energy (WTE) processes convert non-recyclable waste to usable forms of energy. For instance, a WTE method might transform waste into heat, energy or fuel. Sometimes this process relies on incineration — mass-burn facilities combust large amounts of waste and then capture the thermal energy from the combustion to heat a boiler and produce steam. Other processes like refuse-derived fuel systems shred municipal waste, separate the combustible materials and then burn them as fuel in a specialized furnace. The facilities where these processes take place capture the toxic byproducts of incineration before they can reach the atmosphere.
At VLS, our waste-to-energy program offers our customers sustainable waste management practices.
If your business produces food waste, composting is a more eco-friendly method of disposal than landfill waste. If your compostable food goes into the garbage, mixed in with nonbiodegradable materials like polystyrene and other plastics, its nutrients are unlikely to benefit the soil as it degrades. It will rot and take up space, but it won’t return any nutrients to the earth. Separating food waste into a compost pile enables you to enrich the nearby environment and help it thrive.
The Two Types of Waste — and What Can Be Recycled
Now that we’ve discussed a few waste disposal methods, let’s talk about some of the primary types of waste and which ones are recyclable.
1. Hazardous Waste
Hazardous waste is waste that could pose serious risks to human health or to the environment. Many types of materials are classified as hazardous waste. They may be corrosive, reactive, toxic or ignitable, or they may be spent solvent wastes, wood-preserving wastes, dioxin-containing wastes or industry-specific wastes like petroleum refining wastes. Pesticides, herbicides, mercury-containing batteries and some medical waste products like human tissue and contaminated sharps are a few examples.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates hazardous waste. According to the EPA’s Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), companies are responsible for the safe handling of their hazardous waste from the cradle to the grave — that is, from its generation through its ultimate disposal. For this reason, knowing the difference between hazardous and non-hazardous waste is critical for your business. It helps keep you in compliance and allows you to ensure you’re disposing of your hazardous waste safely and responsibly.
2. Non-hazardous Waste
What is non-hazardous waste? Non-hazardous waste encompasses all other forms of waste. It may not be ideal for the environment, but it will not do grievous harm to ecosystem integrity or public health. Nonetheless, non-hazardous waste usually may not go into standard dumpsters or sewer lines. A few examples of non-hazardous waste include manufacturing waste, agricultural waste, construction debris and scrap tires.
Some non-hazardous waste is recyclable, and some hazardous waste may be recyclable as well after it undergoes sufficient treatment.
How do you know if something is recyclable? Here are a few examples of recyclable waste — many likely familiar to you from household recycling and some more specific to industrial environments.
- Clean paper and cardboard
- Clean plastic containers — check the numbers against the list of what’s recyclable in your area
- Glass jars and bottles
- Tin and aluminum cans
- Scrap metal
- Old electronics — at designated facilities
- Batteries — at designated facilities
- Fluorescent light bulbs — at designated facilities
- Spent oil — at designated facilities
- Tires — at designated facilities
- Paint waste — with a professional waste disposal company
- Liquid waste – with a professional waste disposal company
- Solvent waste — with a professional waste disposal company
- Other chemical waste — with a professional waste disposal company
- Construction materials like timber, metal, glass and asphalt — with a professional waste disposal company
Know the Recycling Laws and Regulations in Your Area
Recycling laws and regulations vary from city to city and state to state. It’s essential to stay informed about your local regulations as they pertain to recycling.
Why is it so important stay up to date on the recycling regulations that affect your business?
- Avoiding fines: If your company tries to recycle waste that ends up being hazardous, you could face steep penalties for improper disposal. Familiarity with the regulations governing industrial waste will help you know the proper steps to take before trying to recycle potentially hazardous materials.
- Boosting efficiency: If you know what you’re allowed to recycle and how it should be separated, you’ll know you’re providing recyclables that the recycling facility can accept. You’ll be less likely to have your recyclables rejected and have to figure out a backup plan, and you won’t have to spend extra time and effort re-sorting them.
- Improving sustainable practices: If your recyclables don’t meet local or federal regulations, your recycling program is likely to stagnate. Your business may become frustrated and put less and less effort into separating and recycling the correct waste. On the other hand, if you adhere to regulations, your program will likely be more productive, and your sustainable practices will flourish.
How Customized Recycling Services Can Help Your Business
Investing in the right recycling services can help your business accurately determine what waste is recyclable and what isn’t. It enables you to adhere to all applicable state and federal laws and remain in compliance, avoid fines and protect your business reputation.
Industrial recycling offers several other benefits for your business as well — it helps you conserve energy, lower costs, improve your reputation and even create new jobs in the field of waste transportation and disposal. Partner with a professional waste management company like VLS to learn more about what your company can recycle and gain the advantages of robust waste management recycling services for your operations.
Contact VLS Environmental Solutions for Reliable Professional Waste Disposal
To see the benefits of sustainable waste management services in your business, make VLS Environmental Soultions your trusted provider. At VLS, we remove, transport, recycle and dispose of non-hazardous industrial waste safely, ethically and in full compliance with the law. When you choose our waste management bulk pickup services, you’ll gain the peace of mind of knowing you’re recycling the materials you can, disposing responsibly of the materials you can’t recycle and doing your part to help preserve the environment and promote sustainable practices in your industry.
Contact us today to learn more about non-hazardous waste disposal procedures.