Creating a plan to help your company reduce its carbon footprint and achieve sustainability goals.
By Chris Ames

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. It is a phrase that has been ingrained in our minds for years now. The phrase was a great catalyst to raise awareness for reusing and recycling resources to help protect the environment. The time has come for us to re-examine the phrase and go beyond those three words. There are more opportunities to make an impact in the waste management world, but it starts with industry leaders raising awareness and helping others rethink their current practices.

Creating a new, more sustainable waste management plan may seem like a daunting task, especially if you have been following the same course of action for years. Your plan, whether it is created in-house or with the help of an outside resource, should be tailored to meet your company’s needs while also supporting your sustainability goals. For some, this may start with determining your current environmental impact and outlining tangible goals to reduce your carbon footprint.

Evaluating Production Byproducts
Creating your own sustainable waste management plan starts with the product at hand. This evaluation process can be compared to the five Ws of writing: who, what, when, where, and why. When do we determine whether a byproduct is usable or needs to be disposed of? Who is responsible for waste management planning? What is the composition of the byproduct? Where does that byproduct then go? Why are we currently disposing of the byproduct this way?

The answers to these questions set the foundation for determining the potential value of the material being used. From there, your company can fully evaluate if your current practices are augmenting or decreasing the value of said material. Ultimately, it is up to your company and its stakeholders to determine your sustainability goals and if new practices need to be put in place to create a larger impact to meet those goals.


Envita Solutions employee seen pictured above processes waste at a plant in West Virginia.
Photo courtesy of Envita Solutions.


Creating a Program-Based Plan
Once the details of your evaluation are composed, you can begin laying out your new and improved waste management plan. Your objectives should be program-based and site-specific. This will help you achieve specific requirements for each location and ensure you are getting the maximum value of your byproducts while adhering to operational constraints.

Every company’s waste management plan will look different based on the products, goods, and services they provide. If a product must be destroyed, the course of action will look different for a food and beverage company handling a recall than it would for an automotive company disposing of a faulty part. In both cases though, there is the opportunity to expand your thought process on “what happens next?”
Companies should consider the value that can be extracted from waste. What many would see as the next drop-off to a landfill could be recycled or repurposed for another purpose. In the instance of a food recall, byproducts can often be upcycled, used as animal feed, or composted depending on the type of food waste. In the tech or automotive industries, metals or plastics can be selectively pulled from waste and repurposed. If the byproduct itself cannot be repurposed or recycled, there may be an opportunity for a waste-to-energy plan.

Educating Stakeholders
After identifying the next steps and higher purpose for the byproduct, present the plan to the company’s stakeholders. This conversation should be centered around the foundation of reduce, reuse, or recycle. Lay out how the phrase specifically applies to the materials handled in your company.

Dig deep and get granular in the explanation of the choices at hand. Your proposal should be supported by corporate sustainability goals that have been set. Stakeholders may not initially understand the importance of creating a new waste management plan or finding a new way to manage byproducts. This is why it is important to emphasize to stakeholders the impacts of their words and actions. Setting sustainability goals impacts every job in the value chain from the laborers on the production line, up to the plant manager. Everyone involved in that process should be on board with the plan developed and understand that the steps taken are done to achieve the company’s goals—whether those are to achieve zero waste to landfill status or reduce your carbon footprint.

Putting Your Plan in Place
Once your proposal has been developed and approved, you can begin to execute your plan. Depending on the higher purpose for the byproduct, the company may need assistance from waste experts.
When making changes to the way a byproduct is disposed or repurposed, it is important to also create a plan on how those changes will be documented. This can range from taking photos and videos of the process or at the dumping location to saving receipts and restructuring documents. Again, the course of action for documentation and organization will vary based on the type of byproduct a company is handling.

A Final Thought
Every day, the emphasis on developing cleaner, more sustainable business practices to support the environment grows, causing companies to re-evaluate their beliefs, standards, and goals. Every major player is investing and changing the way they do things. The traditional reduce, reuse, and recycle practices can be used as a springboard to further develop innovative ways to divert waste from landfills and move material up EPA’s waste management hierarchy. It is our responsibility to continue pushing boundaries and help companies transform their complex waste challenges into sustainable solutions. | WA

Chris Ames is the Director of Innovation and Technology for Envita Solutions, formerly known as Heritage Interactive Services. He has dedicated more than 16 years of his career to developing solutions for best-in-class consolidated total waste management. Envita Solutions proactively creates custom solutions for its customers that reduces their environmental impact through material recovery, energy recovery, composting, recycling, or creative reuse. Chris can be reached at [email protected].