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Earth Day is a good time for everyone to stop, take a look around, and consider what we are doing to conserve the planet’s resources. Unfortunately, far too much of what we currently use is wasted, either thrown out and sent to landfills after it’s been used, or wasted as a byproduct of producing and distributing goods. Recycling, both post-consumer and pre-consumer, plays a huge role in conserving resources and repurposing materials that would otherwise be wasted.
So, how do we measure up when it comes to solid waste management?
Pre-consumer waste: Helping companies manage pre-consumer recyclable materials represents an enormous opportunity, perhaps as much as 45 times more volume than that generated by municipal solid waste (MSW) sources. For instance, manufacturing processes often involve a lot of waste, as scraps of plastic or textiles are cut away during production and are frequently sent to landfills. Collecting those scraps and directing them towards recycling services not only diverts these materials out of landfills, it can provide an offsetting revenue stream. Recyclers are willing to pay for clean, high-quality recyclable material, and a production line can be tailored to ensure that this material is well-sorted, free of contamination from foreign materials, and bundled in a way that makes it easy to transport and reclaim. It’s also crucial for facility managers to enforce good practices — for example, ensuring that cardboard makes it into the paper and cardboard recycling bin, not the landfill bin.
Post-consumer waste: Consumer recycling made headlines a couple of years ago when China made the decision to stop allowing the import of plastics for recycling, due to concerns that it was not sorted, often contaminated with food scraps or other non-recyclable material, and not easy to reclaim. Since then, the U.S. recycling capacity has mostly been absorbed by other countries, which often lack effective waste management policies. Sadly, the U.S. will struggle to make recycling effective as long as it remains committed to a single-stream post-consumer process. In Europe, consumers have been accustomed to sorting (and cleaning) their recyclables, so they are easier and more economical for recyclers to accept. Another significant issue is the price differential between recycling and landfill disposal. In Europe, landfill services may charge 160 euros (almost $200) per ton, including steep landfill taxes, providing an enormous economic incentive to divert material from the landfill. In the U.S., by contrast, landfill services charge an average of $50 per ton. Even within the U.S. there is a wide range: In markets like Washington State, where landfill tip fees are $70-$100 per ton, recycling is much more prevalent than in markets in the Southeast where they charge $30 per ton for landfill tip fees.
Electronic waste: Computers, mobile phones, and similar electronics present a special case, as they contain recyclable materials, but may also contain significant quantities of toxic heavy metals (such as the lead often used for solder on circuit boards). We’ve all seen the heartbreaking photos of children in India and Africa processing e-waste using hammers and open flames, without any eye protection, masks, or gloves. This is dangerous for the children and it is also a threat to the environment, as much of this waste contaminates the land, water, and air where this work is done. We should not be sending materials to places that process e-waste like that or use child labor to do so.
At IsoMetrix, we help companies understand, manage, and track the full spectrum of environmental, health, safety, sustainability, and social issues that pertain to waste management. Our software is designed to help keep waste management employees safe with proper training and PPE, protect their companies’ social license to operate, all while benefiting the environment. While this blog focuses on recycling in the spirit of Earth Day, IsoMetrix’s solution is designed to serve all waste services sectors, inclusive of solid waste, hazardous waste, industrial waste, and medical waste. In addition, IsoMetrix enables the waste generator to track their waste data and metrics and supports efforts around landfill diversion and obtaining Zero-Waste-to-Landfill status.
IsoMetrix’s integrated Waste Services solution allows companies to manage regulatory permits; compliance requirements; ESG reporting, employee training and PPE; stakeholder communications; and the tracking and reporting of all waste KPIs, on a single intuitive platform. Instead of addressing environmental, health, safety, sustainability, and social impacts of waste management in silos, companies use IsoMetrix’s advanced dashboards and data visualizations to provide visibility into business efficiencies and inefficiencies to gain a holistic understanding of business risk. IsoMetrix empowers waste management companies to optimize their workflows to improve performance metrics, and to boost productivity by streamlining day-to-day tasks. The software increases accuracy of data and reporting, and minimizes operational costs due to non-conformances. It can also track production data to enable the user to view environmental metrics as a function of production (intensity factors). To learn more, request a demo today.