Government financial watchdogs, such as the SEC, are already exploring ways to implement new climate-related reporting rules for businesses, elected leaders are setting zero waste and carbon neutrality goals, and businesses are feeling increased pressure to find savings through efficiency and demand from consumers to offer more sustainable products and services.
Waste and recycling is an often overlooked category for sustainability, operational, and financial improvement. The success of sustainable waste practices often hinges on working to achieve diversion goals.
Setting achievable diversion goals for businesses provides a path to a focused plan of action to achieve those goals and creates a purpose for tracking and measuring progress toward those goals. By setting and working to achieve diversion goals, businesses can also realize a number of benefits more immediately including cost savings, improved operational efficiency, and improved brand reputation and loyalty.
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Set Goals, Create a plan, measure progress
The approach for businesses is to set clear diversion goals, create an actionable plan to achieve those goals, and measure progress against that plan.
Think of diversion as a marathon, not a sprint. Just as runners set their goal of finishing 26.2 miles often within a certain timeframe, they first set intermediate goals until they can reach their end goal. Businesses setting diversion goals can take a similar approach setting challenging yet achievable goals that effectively leverage time, budget, and resources to achieve larger goals in a timely and effective manner.
Whether the goal is zero waste, carbon reduction, or simply recycling more material, challenging diversion goals can only be achieved with a plan. That plan should include things such as educating employees on what recycling symbols actually mean, right-sizing equipment and service schedules, and understanding what materials can actually be recycled in your area.
After a goal is set, a good first step is conducting a waste audit to establish baseline measurements. Businesses will be able to uncover the volume of varied waste streams, the amount of recyclable materials, and the costs associated with current waste management practices. That provides a business with baseline metrics with which to improve upon.
[Here are 5 steps to prepare your business for a waste audit!]
Measuring and tracking progress against the action plan is critical to finding success. Smart technology tools, including waste metering technology, can play a part in optimizing baseline and continual data collection for businesses. Through near real-time monitoring, waste metering gives businesses the ability to see what is being discarded and in which bins or dumpsters materials are being placed.
Businesses are then able to analyze this baseline data in concert with their established diversion goals. Milestones achieved along the way to realizing overall goals can be celebrated. In turn, areas that need improvement can also be identified, allowing shifts and changes to be made.
Measuring and tracking the progress toward achieving diversion goals not only provides your business with data regarding tonnage, Scope 3 emissions, and environmental impacts, also providing it to the general public helps eliminate any doubt about greenwashing. Greenwashing has the power to mislead consumers, damage brand reputation, and slow down actual meaningful progress toward sustainability.
Your business cannot track what it doesn’t measure. Setting clear diversion goals, putting a plan in place, and tracking progress gives your business the best chance to bring those goals to fruition.
Here are 6 signs you're paying too much for waste and recycling services
Benefits of setting and achieving diversion goals
Actively working toward reducing waste volumes and increasing recycling often provides cost savings for businesses. Implementing effective strategies that divert waste away from landfills while also promoting recycling allows businesses to avoid or reduce landfill tipping fees. Tipping fees have increased 11% nationwide from 2021 to 2022, averaging $60.34 per ton. The Northeast US has the highest fees at $85.41 while the Midwest region saw the highest price spike year over year at 22%.
Not only can businesses save money through setting clear diversion goals, but the material can end up becoming a new revenue stream. One of the largest examples of this is automaker General Motors. GM is able to generate $20,000 each month from recycling cardboard alone. Annually, the company rakes in $1 billion from recycling scrap metal. GM’s revenue in 2022 was $156.7 billion, making scrap recycling equal to nearly 1% of the company’s revenue.
How do you read those plastic recycling symbols? Find out HERE!
improved operational efficiency
Another factor impacting the recyclability of materials is the ability of businesses to access recycling infrastructure within a region that makes it economically advantageous. Having facilities close by influences business participation, awareness, and education. When facilities are easy to access, often through a service provider, overall recycling rates tend to increase. This makes operational recycling programs more affordable for businesses because on the surface, transportation costs are often automatically lower.
Streamlining operations, implementing sustainable practices, and reducing reliance on virgin raw materials are just a few examples of efficiencies from pursuing diversion goals. These actions often lead to long-term financial dividends, regardless of industry. For specific industries, such as manufacturing, improvements in operational efficiency avoids problems such as work stoppages, waste piling up, safety issues, and equipment malfunctions. These have the potential to significantly impact a facility's productivity and profitability.
Recycling better can benefit your business in these 4 key areas!
promote a positive brand image
When a business sets clear diversion goals, the brand reputation of a business can see dramatic enhancements. Setting and working to achieve diversion goals demonstrates a commitment to environmental sustainability and community well-being. It's a proactive approach that not only resonates with environmentally conscious consumers but can also attract potential customers who prioritize sustainable business practices. Having a reputation for environmental responsibility also has the potential for a business to differentiate itself in a competitive market. Nearly 80% of U.S. consumers consider sustainability when making a purchase decision, nearly 90% of Gen X consumers said they would be willing to spend more for sustainable products, and 88% of consumers reported they would be more loyal to a company that supports environmental issues.
Roadrunner is your trusted waste expert
Setting waste diversion goals allows businesses to position themselves as leaders in environmental stewardship while at the same time providing balance-friendly budgets. Waste diversion goals involving a clear roadmap for action can guide efforts to reduce waste, increase recycling, and often find cost savings. Operations can be drastically improved to be more efficient, too.
Working with a trusted waste and recycling management expert like RoadRunner can mean the difference for your business. Our RecycleMORE™ program helps you set goals and strategies towards sustainable, affordable and efficient waste and recycling.
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