In the world of waste reduction, the ICI (industrial, commercial, institutional) sector is the strong, silent type. Everyone focuses on the residential third of the waste steam. Meanwhile businesses & institutions are sitting on large amounts of homogenous waste that could be simply diverted if it was given a little attention.
It is very possible for the ICI sector to achieve significant waste reduction. GM has more than 100 ‘landfill free’ facilities. Other companies and institutions have managed similar gains. So, it can be done. And yet, two thirds of the waste is from the ICI sector. Something’s missing here….
My theories include ‘it costs too much’ and ‘I didn’t know,’ (maybe also ‘it’s too much work’ but that’s a variation on ‘it costs too much’). Statements of affordability are statements of priorities. Let’s just get that clear from the start. If someone says, ‘I can’t afford it’, what they’re saying is ‘it is not important enough to me’. So businesses who say that it’s too expensive to reduce waste are saying they have other priorities. And it’s true that businesses have to make money to stay alive. But here’s where the ‘I didn’t know’ factor can come in. Waste reducing practices can end up saving money.
Some of what is needed is a change in perspective. Think of waste as a failure. Every time you throw something out, you are discarding value. Perhaps the thing you are throwing away could be recycled. Even better, perhaps you could have avoided producing that waste by changing how you do things. Using fewer resources to produce an equivalent result is better for your business and it’s better for the whole planet. It’s that whole lean thinking idea – keep only what adds value (where value is defined as goods or services that a customer will pay for). Find ways to remove the things that don’t add value. Businesses will be more efficient and less waste will be produced.
If it is framed in the context of saving businesses and institutions money, waste reduction can move up the priority list. The work required is in the thinking about it, the constant asking “how can we do this better, in a way that uses less stuff and produces less waste?,” “How can we reuse or recycle the waste we can’t avoid?”
It’s like we say here at SWRC: think more … waste less.