Managing your waste stream is not just about compliance and getting waste out of your facility. There is real value in source separation and landfill diversion. Proper management of your solid waste can lead to generating revenue and cost savings. Sustainability is also a concern for all businesses today and this is a step towards a greener business that sees value in the triple bottom line approach – People, profit, and planet.
Managing a waste stream isn’t achieved by considering it as an afterthought to your business. If you are to achieve significant results from your solid waste management program, you have to be strategic in your approach. It needs to include waste reduction, a recycling program, and commitment from all stakeholders to make it work.
When it comes to waste management, there is nothing more important than waste separation at the source to ensure a clean waste stream. While it is possible to separate recyclable materials from commingled waste at a transfer station or another similar facility, the quality of the waste thus retrieved tends to be reduced and may not yield optimum results.
This blog will discuss source separation in-depth and how you can implement a waste sorting program to get optimum results from your waste stream management.
Why Should You Separate Waste from the Source?
Separating waste at the source is the first step toward a more efficient waste management strategy. Be it municipal solid waste (MSW) or industrial waste, source separation is encouraged for several reasons. Here are some of them.
Aids in Waste Reduction
One of the biggest advantages of source separation is that it helps in reducing the total waste that is generated and propels you to reuse the waste materials that are being collected. Separating waste makes it easier to identify what types of waste are being generated and in what quantities. This information is an important input in finding ways to reduce each type of waste and also in reusing what is being generated.
Better Utilization of Waste Commodities
Waste recycling is a big part of waste management. There is a huge market for waste commodities such as corrugated cardboard, plastic waste, metal scraps, and even food waste or organic waste. To tap into these markets and to get maximum value out of the waste being generated, it should not be contaminated. Commingled waste is not easily separated and it does not command the same prices as clean waste separated at the source.
Increases Diversion of Waste
Most businesses are chasing diversion targets being set by government authorities. Reducing the amount of waste that ends up in landfills is an important agenda for all of us. Landfill emissions are one of the leading causes of climate change and pollution.
Separating waste at the source makes it easy to find ways to deal with different types of waste separately. Organic waste can be used in composting, aerobic or anaerobic digestion, vermiculture, or livestock feed. Plastic bottles, cartons, electronic waste, and other such waste can be sent to recycling facilities. Source separation makes this possible.
While source separation can add a few more steps to your waste management process, the outcome is reduced costs. You get more income by selling off the commodities for recycling, you reduce the amount of waste that is being disposed of in landfills or incinerators and you can also optimize your transportation by baling and compacting different types of waste and transporting it.
How Do You Implement Source-Separation of Commercial Waste?
We have established why separating waste at the source is important. It’s now time to discuss how to get it done. Waste Control has been helping various businesses effectively manage their waste streams for several years. This is how we do it for our clients.
Conduct a Comprehensive Waste Audit
This is where most of the work we do begins. If you are to do a source separation program, this is where you should be beginning too. A comprehensive waste audit will help you understand waste generation in your business in some depth. Here are some questions we try to answer while doing the audit.
- What are the different types of waste being produced?
- What quantity of each waste type is being generated?
- Which processes or steps in production are generating the most amounts of waste?
- What is the quality of the waste products being generated?
- How much of the waste being produced can be reused?
Getting a sense of this will help immensely in understanding your waste generation and will help you plan interventions accordingly.
Establish Processes for Sorting Waste at Each Step
Similar to how your products will have a plan according to how they move within your facility, you also need to create a plan for your waste materials too. Let’s take cardboard boxes as an example. There will be several steps in your production process where cardboard boxes are being discarded as waste. This could include your cafeteria and corporate office. The waste audit will help you identify the sources of cardboard waste. This step is about collecting all this waste in one place.
You need to establish a process that enables all cardboard boxes to be collected and ultimately stored in one location for further processing. This will make it easier for you to take the next steps in moving this out of your facility and to the recyclers.
This could mean placing waste bins for each type of waste at the places where it’s been generated. If you are talking about cardboard or paper waste, place a certain colored bin to make sure that waste collection happens efficiently. This way you do not have to spend time sorting through the waste at a later time.
Educate Your Employees and Other Stakeholders
Employees play a crucial role in waste sorting at the source. Without their support, the plan will simply not take off. Educating the employees and other stakeholders such as customers and vendors is an important step in the process.
By training them on the proper way to deal with different types of waste, you make the process of sorting waste much smoother. They will soon be able to identify the sources and ensure that there is no inter-mixing of waste at any step in the process.
Training is also not just a one-time process. You need to focus on constantly reinforcing the messages about reducing waste and recycling and why sorting waste at the source is important. This will help you stay on the path and keep the process going.
Plan Out Ways to Deal with the Different Types of Waste
The next step is to plan out how you are going to deal with the various types of waste. You should also have plans regarding what waste equipment you would need. Planning for transport and disposal is important too.
If you are dealing with hazardous waste, you have to ensure that it does not mix with other forms of waste and does not leak or contaminate. Identifying what waste products to bale or compact and what forms of transport would be needed is important.
Track and Measure to Optimize Results
What does not get measured, does not get done. It’s true about most aspects of business and holds here too. Keep track of the quantities of different waste materials being collected and recycled. How much of the waste you generate is being sent to landfills? What amount of waste is being reused? All these will give you a sense of how the process is working and how you are progressing towards being a zero-waste business.
Waste management never happens by default. It has to happen by design. A good design is paramount in ensuring cost efficiency and sustainability. Source separation of waste is one such lever that gives you a great deal of control over your waste stream. It helps in controlling costs and in ensuring that your waste is being recycled and not being disposed of in landfills.
Waste segregation at the source can be quite tricky to implement given how it adds a few steps to the processes that are already in place. But with proper implementation and support from upper management, it can be well integrated.
Finally, waste segregation can uncover a lot of hidden opportunities to turn waste into revenue. This is why dealing with experts in waste management is advised. Haulers will certainly take the waste off your hands but will not help you cut costs or generate income.
Waste Control is a leader in commercial waste management. Our expertise in understanding waste generation and management in businesses makes it possible to cut waste management costs by 30-40%. We help you sort waste at the source, handle these efficiently, and sell waste commodities at a premium to buyers. Talk to us today to get started!