Unfortunately, it is in the industry name itself – “Waste Management”. What this naming convention creates is an environment or a thought process by companies, institutions and individuals that always has Waste at the forefront. When we assume right out of the gate that all materials are waste, the likelihood that we label materials as “recyclable” becomes less and less.
Why do we always think Waste first? Is it just easier to throw materials in the garbage than in the recycling bin? This perception and this way of thinking are hindering our ability to drive sustainability plans forward. What if this perception changed? What if as a consumer or as a business owner, we began our process by assuming all materials were Recyclable. Through careful analysis, we can then decide what can and can’t be recycled, only then, classify it as waste? What if the industry changed from “Waste Management” to “Discarded Material Management”?
When I think about successful recycling programs at any size or type of business, they all share one underlying principal – they have left behind the notion of waste management and have switched gears to focus on ‘Discarded Material Management’. What’s the difference? Well, within discarded material management, these organizations are NOT assuming anything is waste. They are putting programs in place that allow them to understand what materials are being generated, where they are being generated and how to collect them efficiently and effectively. This leads to an increase in achieving sustainability goals, increasing diversion rates, reducing the amount of waste collection and the costs associated with managing your recycling program. Sustainability leaders are choosing to look at their programs much differently than before. They are analyzing each aspect of the internal process, introducing the concept of a circular economy to the design of products and packaging, for its next use to be processed over and over again without causing harm to the environment.
My goal is, one day the word ‘waste’ and the concept of ‘waste management’ are removed from our vocabulary to become a thing of the past. I am confident together we can help recover more, waste less and truly have a positive impact in our homes and our communities. As we continue the sustainability journey forward, I encourage you as an individual or business owner to ask more questions about the materials being collected. In order to drive diversion rates higher and reduce overall waste costs, we need to start re-engineering our collection and discarded material management process. Why is that product or package deemed as waste? Why can’t it be recycled? Has someone actually told you its non-recyclable or are you just ‘assuming’ it’s waste?
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Article written by Mikhael Metauro - Director, Supply Development on July 16th, 2018