Waste management is as much about controlling costs as it is about keeping up with regulations and running a more sustainable business. Government bodies have been waging a war against waste, and the regulations that are in place ensure that solid waste and hazardous waste are properly managed. Beyond this, the goals also include reducing the amount of waste that ends in landfills and ensuring maximum recycling.
All this to say, your waste management strategy should not just focus on cutting costs and getting waste hauled off your facility. Compliance is also a key aspect to consider when you are framing your solid waste management strategy. Both federal and state laws and regulations are in place for waste management including hazardous waste, solid waste, and organic waste.
Not being compliant can certainly land you in some trouble, and will push your costs higher than what they should be. How do you make sure that your waste management strategy is aligned with key regulations? This blog will attempt to answer this. Read on!
Why is Regulatory Compliance Worth It?
Regulatory compliance is not just a way to stay away from fines and other punitive actions. That is, of course, one of the reasons why everyone does it but beyond that, it is about being a responsible and sustainable business.
All businesses are, at the end of the day, using resources of the earth that are dwindling as we speak. Using these resources wisely is everyone’s responsibility. Most regulatory frameworks talk about reducing and reusing waste as much as possible and also recycling. The objective is all about reducing the quantity of waste being thrown into landfills.
Sustainable business practices are necessary if we are to keep climate change in check and keep greenhouse gas emissions under control. Waste disposal facilities like landfills are a major source of methane and other emissions. recycling waste thus reduces emissions majorly by preventing waste from ending up in landfills.
Let’s consider the example of corrugated cardboard. If you are throwing it away and not recycling it, cardboard occupies a whole load of space in the landfills or other waste disposal facilities. There’s also the damage that comes from cutting down more trees to make more cardboard and paper which could have been prevented by recycling the cardboard waste you generated.
There are also human health concerns especially when you are dealing with hazardous waste management. Medical waste, pesticides & chemical waste, used oil, and other such waste products have to be treated and dealt with properly. If you are storing it in underground storage tanks or disposing of it unscientifically, it could leech into the groundwater supply and contaminate it. This could have an adverse impact on the health of the people depending on these groundwater sources.
Regulatory compliance is thus not just about avoiding fines or reducing risk. It’s also a more responsible business practice. We are living in a world where consumers are increasingly becoming conscious of green business practices and are basing their brand preferences based on how sustainable and socially responsible a business is among other parameters. Being compliant with waste management regulations is definitely one of the most important aspects.
How Can Your Strategy be Aligned with Key Regulations?
Implementing a strategy that includes compliance can be tricky. Fret not, we have done it a thousand times for our clients. Here are how our approach works and some key regulatory frameworks you should know.
Understanding Waste Generation at Your Organization
One of the first things to do is to completely audit waste generation in your organization. It helps you frame your strategy in the right manner and get a sense of where you are with waste management today. Look at the various processes that you have in place and see which ones are generating what types of waste materials in how large of quantities. For small businesses, getting this information may be quite easy but the bigger you are, it can prove to be a bit more difficult overall.
Designing your waste management program becomes much easier if you have this critical information in hand. You can then go ahead and see how you can reduce and reuse the various types of waste to reduce the quantities of waste to be dealt with. It also informs you of the various regulations you have to look at. If you have hazardous waste, you should know about hazardous waste compliance and what waste rules are to be implemented. Same with organic waste and other types of waste.
Reducing and Reusing Waste
The next step in the process is to cut down on waste as much as possible. It does sound very easy on paper and can be quite a hassle when you get down to it. Look at the various processes, talk to your vendors and other stakeholders, and relook at your business processes to see how you can reduce the amount of waste you are producing. This will help tremendously as you would not have to pay the waste transporters or for recycling and you don’t have to worry about compliance for the waste that you’re not producing.
If you are a food service organization or a grocery store, you can donate the excess items that are still usable to food banks or other charities. Similarly, find ways in which you can reuse some of the excess materials yourself or by donating it to some other business or even selling it off.
Some items such as organic waste can be dealt with in-house by composting it. Composting greatly reduces harmful emissions of greenhouse gases and it can help you stay compliant when it comes to organic food waste.
Knowing Key Regulations to be Compliant With
This is certainly the most important bit when you are framing the strategy. You should have a clear understanding of which regulations you have to be compliant with and how. Its to be noted that there are both federal and state legislations to look at and there may also be local government regulations that are in place for your city or county.
Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) is the federal act that is one of the most important laws in the area of solid waste management. It lays out various non-hazardous and hazardous waste regulations. The environmental protection agency (EPA) is responsible for the implementation of the RCRA regulations and has laid out various parameters and actions that organizations have to follow.
The EPA’s mandate is mostly towards compliance and enforcement of guidelines for hazardous waste generators. small quantity generators (SQG) and large quantity generators(LQG) both fall under its purview. Household hazardous waste also comes under the purview of RCRA. EPA guidelines are important to understand as it is what will determine the change in processes you have to implement.
RCRA however gives states the lead role in enforcing non-hazardous waste management initiatives. The law lays down some frameworks for the states for managing both household and industrial solid waste that falls under the non-hazardous waste category. State laws will, of course, vary from state to state so knowing the local laws are important before you frame your strategy.
Get your Stakeholders on Board
Compliance won’t be achieved if you do not have the buy-in from your entire organization. This is the case with most compliance requirements, and waste management is no different. You need your employees to follow the regulatory requirements when they are handling waste and follow the instructions down to the last detail to make sure that you’re not missing out.
Just getting your employees onboard may not be enough. You would also need the support of your vendors and suppliers to be compliant and the support from the waste haulers who are responsible for waste shipments.
Educating and training your employees also should be a part of the strategy. Provide them with general information regarding waste management compliance using fact sheets and classes. They should be aware of emergency response guidelines when it comes to hazardous waste management and also contingency plans and remediation.
Measure and Analyze the Strategy
Every strategy needs constant monitoring and optimization. Your waste management strategy needs it too. Assess your compliance regularly and have strict record-keeping protocols in place so that you are not losing out on regulatory requirements.
Record keeping is one of those things that you should be very particular about. Document the quantities of waste being produced, recycled, reused, and ultimately sent to landfills. Many state guidelines include mandatory diversion goals which need proper records to address.
Irrespective of the size of the business and the amount of waste you generate, compliance with waste management guidelines and regulations is important. It does not just make financial sense but it’s also an important aspect when we talk about sustainable business goals.
Compliance with regulatory requirements needs a thorough understanding of your waste footprint and also a clear idea about what regulations apply and how to remain compliant with them. Taking help from experts in the area will help you immensely. Get compliance assistance from us at Waste Control today!