Many new business owners underestimate the importance of their waste management and recycling strategy. Your strategy will dictate how your business produces and deals with waste, ultimately predicting its environmental sustainability — and public perception. It will also cost you money.
With better habits and strategies in place, a new business can save money, increase its efficiency, and improve its environmental friendliness simultaneously.
Is your company taking care of its community the way it should be?
The Importance of Waste Auditing
The most important step you can take is conducting a waste audit. Working with a professional waste auditor, you’ll take a deep dive into your waste management and recycling habits, evaluating your waste management practices, existing contracts, and plans for the future.
Through an independent waste audit, you’ll discover the ways you’re overspending on waste management. Likewise, you’ll identify opportunities for savings. Depending on what you find and how you apply those insights, you may be able to reduce your overall waste spending by 35 to 40 percent.
Your first goal is to reduce the amount of waste you produce. Chances are high that your waste management provider is charging you partially on how much waste you produce. That could mean charging you for each waste container used or charging you for any overages. Even if volume isn’t an issue, you can still reduce waste as a way to make your business more sustainable and more environmentally friendly.
Consider these options:
Composting has become more mainstream in recent years, especially for business owners. If your business produces organic waste, consider adding it to a compost pile. Not only will it provide a convenient way to get rid of most of your organic waste, but it can also lead to healthier soil in your community.
Recycling is an obvious choice. You might have to pay for recycling services, as you do with other forms of waste management, but it’s a friendlier option for the environment — and recycling helps reduce other forms of waste. Make sure your employees are educated on which materials can be recycled and which ones can’t, and place recycling bins throughout your business so they’re easily accessible.
You’ll also want to consider the packaging that’s included in your main products, supplies, and shipments. Excessive packaging can instantly multiply the amount of waste you produce for each product; the extra boxes and containers serve little purpose and end up in the trash. Choose low-packaging alternatives when possible, and eliminate disposable products like bottled water altogether.
4. Shifting Paperless
You can also consider converting your business to a paperless model. Going paperless is tough, especially if you have legacy records and processes that have been holding you back for years. However, once you make the change, you’ll never want to go back. Start by digitizing your old records and reinforcing new processes and policies, like submitting invoices via email or only making payments digitally. Your paper waste will instantly shrink.
Reducing Waste-Related Costs
Of course, even with these waste reduction practices in place, your business will produce waste and pay for it. You can reduce the amount of money you pay for these services with some critical attention to these areas:
1. Extra fees
What are you paying for? In many cases, your waste management provider will itemize your bill with a number of different fees, but do you fully understand them? For example, you may be forced to pay an overage fee if you exceed the allowed amount of waste. You may also pay fees for things like fuel, environmental costs, regulation-related fees, maintenance fees, franchise costs, removal, and contamination fees. Are there ways to reduce or eliminate these extra fees? What do they really cover?
2. Extra equipment
You may also have more waste removal equipment than you truly need, like too many containers. Generally, the bigger these are and the more of them you have, the more you’re going to pay. If you’re not utilizing these, the extra costs are wasteful.
3. Price increases
As with many types of businesses, waste management companies tend to increase their prices over time. Are these price increases justified? What does your contract allow? Are you able to negotiate a new deal?
There are dozens of ways for your business to reduce the waste it produces and reduce waste spending (while preserving the core services you need). However, this can be overwhelming — especially for a new business owner with limited experience in the waste management space.
The best place to start is with a waste audit from an independent third party; this will help you understand the current scope of your waste management services and show you where to improve. Cutting waste, after all, is the first step to increasing your resources.