“It’s the right thing to do” may not hold much weight for a small business owner who is trying to cover payroll, pay a building lease and turn a profit. But there’s more to reducing, reusing and recycling than just feeling warm and fuzzy about your environmental choices. Here are four advantages that businesses, particularly small businesses, can gain from practicing responsible waste management.
- Operational efficiencies
In a small business environment where every penny counts, recycling efforts make good financial sense. The more paper, pallets, packaging material, glass, aluminum cans and other items that end up in the recycling bin, the less waste there is to haul away to landfills. Many companies charge less to haul recyclables than trash. You may require less frequent trash pickups, and if you can document waste reductions, you may be able to negotiate a lower waste management fee. Businesses of all shapes, sizes and industries can positively benefit from green business choices. Depending on where you live, there may be state incentives, tax credits or grant opportunities available for certain green business choices. These savings can add up quickly, even on a small scale.
Keep in mind that recycling still uses energy, so the most cost-effective options are always reusing or reducing resources when possible. Regulated items can be especially expensive to dispose of, so significant reduction of items like hazardous or toxic waste can help avoid fines, penalties or the need for costly permits.
- Company reputation
Image is critical for any business. Negative press can wreak havoc on a customer base. On the other hand, a little good PR can attract new clients, build loyalty and encourage referrals. Being known as an eco-friendly company that reduces hazards to the earth and human health can improve your reputation with both clients and other businesses.
Some businesses will even seek out partners and vendors who share their environmental policies, so make sure you’re communicating your eco-friendly efforts to the public and your partners. Include a message on your website and use social media channels to update your customers with programs and progress. And, if you’re making newsworthy contributions to the local community – like adding solar panels or donating leftover food to a hunger relief agency – contact local news outlets to see if they are interested in featuring your efforts in a story.
- Employee satisfaction
Many of today’s employees, especially millennials and generation z, are environmentally conscious and make it a priority to recycle at home. Coming to work every day to a place where they either throw paper and soda cans in the trash or have to take them home to their own recycling bin can be disheartening. Small as it may seem, applying environmentally friendly policies in the workplace can boost employee morale and even make your company more attractive to job seekers.
But just putting out a few green bins may not be enough. Get your employees actively involved by challenging them to help build your recycling program and meet sustainability goals. Globally responsible business practices will likely become more and more customary as the next generation enters the workforce.
- Preservation of local resources
The environmental decisions businesses make often affect the local community. Filling the town landfill can lead to air and water pollution, dissatisfied residents and a landfill that needs more land. Mindful choices like double-sided printing can make a bigger impact than you think. Recycling one ton of paper saves the energy equivalent of 322 gallons of gasoline. A few other simple efforts that can impact resource consumption include turning off lights in unused offices, installing hand dryers instead of paper towels and offering water coolers or reusable drinkware instead of plastic bottles.
Depending on the nature of your business, there are even more impactful ways to conserve resources. These may require a larger financial investment and more time up front but are the best solutions for the good of your business, customers and the environment in the long term. Here are some examples:
- If you have available land or roof space, consider reducing your electricity consumption with solar panels.
- If you’re in manufacturing or distribution, evaluate your packaging processes to see if you could use more eco-friendly packaging or cut down on the quantity of packaging.
- If you have a fleet of company cars, find out if hybrid vehicles could help you cut fuel consumption and conserve energy.
- If you’re in food service, consider starting a composting project. Approximately 95 percent of food that could be composted ends up in landfills and incinerators. A food composting program at Petco Park, the home field for the San Diego Padres, allowed them to divert 164 tons of food waste from landfills in one year.
Now that we’ve covered the basic advantages of responsible waste management, let’s take a look at some steps your business should take to get started.
Identifying opportunities with a professional waste audit.
Almost all businesses could benefit from a more efficient waste management program. An independent waste management advisor can perform a waste audit of your current practices and analyze everything from on-site waste generation to vendor pick-ups. It might be cheaper for your business to lease equipment rather than buying it. Or there could be a recycling option you haven’t considered yet.
A comprehensive waste audit identifies landfill diversion options, logistical inefficiencies and equipment utilization choices to help reduce your company’s global carbon footprint and realize immediate and measurable savings at the same time.
Tracking your business’s progress.
It’s important to identify key performance indicators (KPIs) for your waste management program and measure how effectively your business is reaching your unique objectives. A good tracking system will help you compare and view metrics over time, view trends for entire corporate entities or sort by location, consolidate multiple databases and more. But you don’t have to do any of this alone. The right waste management advisor is key to creating a plan that will help your business starve the landfill and feed your bottom line.
Waste Disposal Solutions is an independent waste management advisor that looks for cost reductions in waste expense management, recycling solutions & LEED support to save you money. Our waste audits look at your current practices and allow us to help you create a plan that will help you starve the landfill and feed your bottom line.