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As the stakes for landfilling waste rise, companies of all sizes are reevaluating their disposal practices and pursuing more sustainable options. One way businesses are effectively adapting to this shift is by increasing their recycling efforts.
But better recycling does far more than benefit the environment and keep companies out of hot water with regulators and consumers. In fact, it benefits businesses, too. Not only can it be directly profitable, either by reducing costs or creating new revenue streams, but it can also boost a company’s reputation, making it more attractive to customers, partners, vendors and investors.
At the most fundamental level, the less waste your business produces, the less it will pay for hauling and disposal costs—rates that have climbed with the sparsity of local landfill space and the prevalence of stricter environmental regulations. What’s more, atypical costs, such as increased overtime pay to offset shortages of skilled labor, may factor in. Add in inflation, supply chain issues and other market headwinds, and waste disposal expenses will almost certainly continue to rise as the handlers pass their costs on to your business.
Recycling waste helps reduce the burdens on that front, but you can also introduce recycling into your actual production and manufacturing processes. By adopting a circular supplies model, you can incorporate recyclable materials—as well as renewable and biodegradable ones—to create sustainability throughout your supply chain. This can increase your control over your processes and improve predictability, which in turn means less disruption of operations and less risk. It could also lessen your raw materials costs.
Recycling has the potential to open up new revenue streams as well. Roughly 2 to 3 percent of all post-recycled waste is metal, for example, which can be sold to generate revenue. Plastics, and even the contents many packaged products contain, such as water, oils and organic material, are also valuable and can be recovered through the right technology and reused in operations or sold. When that isn’t possible, certain waste partners offer processing capabilities, like anaerobic digestion or waste-to-energy solutions that generate energy that can fuel local systems or be sold to the grid.
Furthermore, if you commit to making recycling a core part of your processes, you may qualify for state or federal grants to actually help fund your efforts.
Looking beyond hard monetary costs, recycling helps your business reduce its environmental costs, too. By mitigating the amount of waste you send to a landfill, you’ll mitigate the amount of emissions and ancillary impacts you’re responsible for and the risks that are inherent in that type of disposal. By burying waste, businesses expose themselves to environmental lawsuits and safety hazards, and the brand degradation that comes with those liabilities.
From an operational perspective, as mentioned earlier, recycling can conserve resources that you need to maintain your business and could potentially reduce the need for new inputs, such as virgin materials or energy sources, and sometimes the need for new equipment or components. By recycling, your business will not only improve its efficiency but also its profitability and growth trajectory.
Reducing your business’ carbon footprint through recycling will help you achieve greater sustainability goals to report on—something that’s repeatedly been shown to create business value with today’s demand for strong environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) programs.
Committing more fully to recycling efforts can also be good for your brand. With a strong sustainable waste management program in place, you’ll be better able to attract new customers and increase your appeal to a wider employment pool. Not only will your business be putting innovative processes and programs in place, but it will be encouraging such actions within your entire organization and among the talent you employ. This could help generate even better ideas in the future that will help your business reduce waste, increase efficiencies and boost your valuation.
Putting an effective recycling program in place can be a challenge, especially if you’re tackling it alone. As you try to conduct accurate waste audits or lifecycle analyses, you may find that your business may not have ready access to all the recycling and recovery resources you need to tap, making your progress difficult or even impossible. Partnering with a waste management expert that knows the ins and outs of reducing, reusing and recycling waste could make your efforts simpler and more profitable for your business.
To learn more about how your business can advance its recycling efforts, read our article, "Ramping Up Recycling."
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