I read a headline from HuffPost recently that was titled “Scientists Astonished After Finding Microplastics In Arctic Snow.” This underscores the importance of responsible waste disposal practices today. If not disposed of correctly, certain wastes, such as plastics, can be toxic and hazardous, which can cause diseases, infiltrate our water systems and contaminate our environment.
As the founder of a company that focuses on sustainable agriculture, I manage old products and discontinued products not as waste, but with integrity and opportunity. From my perspective, you have two options if you have excess inventory or a discontinued stock-keeping unit due to label changes or loss of sales: You can either dump the excess products into a landfill, which can risk polluting the water table with plastics and liquids, or you can sell the product at a discount retailer. The latter option creates opportunity by putting a discontinued product into a potential new consumer’s hands.
At my company, for example, we’ve decided that when we discontinue products in the future, which will certainly happen, we will sell them for below fair market value, and the inventory problem will become an opportunity to open markets.
My goal is to inform all business owners on how to responsibly deal with waste while creating opportunities and opening the door for new customers who might have never been exposed to their brands. Communicating and educating business colleagues, employees, and current and future customers are the keys to igniting this type of transformation in your organization. Below are four recommendations to promote responsible waste disposal practices in both your business and home lives:
1. Make proper waste disposal a priority.
The 2018 United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change advised that we reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to a net of zero by 2030, emitting only as much carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere as our trees and other carbon sinks can take in. We have only 10 years to accomplish this task, so we must ask ourselves, “Are we doing everything we can?”
Simple things that can be implemented at your home and work—such as recycling, composting, eliminating plastic water bottles, going paper-free, reducing packaging and installing solar panels—can make a world of difference. Focus strongly on reducing your carbon footprint. A very easy way to do this is to make sure you find three uses for everything you buy that comes in a plastic container, and then recycle it.
2. Implement change one step at a time.
Encourage and empower your employees, partners and clients to practice good green habits both at work and in their personal lives. For example, volunteer to pay a little more for sustainable products from your supplier. Ask your employees to separate trash from recyclables, and then every month, give cans and bottles to a different employee who wants them (at my company, many people do). Implement change one day at a time because small steps do matter.
You can also use social media channels and company blogs to get the word out or even create an online campaign designed to motivate making positive change. It just takes one effective hashtag or video clip going viral to inspire citizens around the world and result in a behavioral shift. I use LinkedIn on a regular basis to connect with my network of contacts, many of whom are change-makers. I also encourage my company’s Facebook and Instagram followers to act and do something responsible and positive for the environment through our posts.
3. Commission an audit.
Are you positive that your company is doing everything it can to reduce and dispose of waste effectively and with integrity? To ensure your green practices are the best they can be, arrange for an audit to review and evaluate the waste culprits in your organization. Even the most environmentally forward companies could benefit from such an audit. I ask all of my employees to participate in the recycling program, and I took the extra step of having our waste measured by our plant manager, as he controls what actually goes into the dumpsters.
You can also learn from past mistakes. A recent story in The Guardian titled “Moon buggies and bags of poo: what humans left on the moon” said, “After 50 years of exploration, the lunar junkyard holds nearly 200 tons of objects.” While there is nothing we can do about this reality; we can learn from the past and make conscious changes in our workplaces and homes to prevent another 200 tons.
4. Support with your voice.
Attend your local chamber of commerce meetings to address your concerns with local business leaders and the community. Work with local council members to encourage accountability and support for new environmentally positive initiatives.
Without question, proper waste disposal practices require a group effort. But with all parties working together, I believe we can all make a real difference for future generations and to preserve the health of our planet.