Debunk Myth: Can you really save cost by managing your waste better?

Is your company’s management team asking what financial gains come out of your waste management programs? If yes, join the club.

The most fundamental question of this situation is “Why?”. Why do companies have to start managing their wastes better? Why do they need to become more responsible for waste they generate? Why your company?

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First, the fact that your consumers (and nowadays employees, too) are now becoming more environmentally-responsible and that causes them to seek for products that can enable them to pursue this new lifestyle and their judgement can route all the way to how you manage your waste after sale. A good case study is Recycling Program initiated by famous coffee shops in Toronto, Canada (Refer to link below).

Second, the long-standing, heavily-debated, possibly-coming system called EPR which stands for Extended Producer Responsibility. For those who want to know more, I have put the link to the OECD’s definition of EPR below. But to simply put it, manufacturers and importers of products are rather forced to have more “responsibility” for the environmental impacts of their products throughout the life cycle — start from product design, material to use, production process, all the way to disposal. Though, it’s not yet enforced here in Thailand but if your company sells products in countries where such concept is heavily enforced/encouraged, chances are that you will have to take that “responsibility”.

Third, because others do it. Your competitors do it, your suppliers do it, your customers do it. That gives you not much room to navigate your way out of this if as the cost of losing one customer in today’s highly competitive market is too high to ignore (let alone the ever so low brand loyalty).

Now, as we have tried to convince you before that waste should be “managed” and not “disposed of”, and that has a notion of really bringing the systematic change into your operations not just for PR value. Case proven — that’s the only time your financial gains can be accomplished. Below are some distinct examples to give you a glimpse of what change is considered systematic and which is not for you to apply to your organization.

Selling your used paper, PET bottles, other recyclables — NOT

Having segregated bins throughout the building — NOT

Understanding of who generates what waste and by how much per day/month/year — YES

Recognizing revenues from selling recyclables as your “revenues” — NOT exactly. Remember your main business is not selling waste! That’s what professional junk shops and waste handlers are for. If you ever find yourself trying to do a zero-sum game between getting revenues from selling recyclables and financing for initiatives to improve your waste management with that money; you will most likely spend a lot more time discussing ideas than getting the job done to move things closer to your goal. Focus on holistic “VALUE” is key to success here.

Having a system in place to know how much it costs you to have the waste picked up, to know what happens to it — allowing you to be able to change practice — YES

So, this is our step-by-step advice:

  1. Do the math: go through your waste-management related expenses
  2. Know the flow: ask how waste is managed today (all of them)
  3. Pick one thing: most of the time the change that yields highest cost efficiency is the hardest one because it is systematic in nature; BUT that does not necessarily mean it is the most expensive one.
  4. Do the math (again): get estimates of investment required to change and this time throw in other non-financial benefits and try your best to quantify them. SROI (Social Return on Investment) is a straightforward tool to help you do this job. Remember, it’s not about short-term money gain — it’s about sustainability.

GEPP stands for sustainable waste management and we would want (more than anything else) to see companies succeed in taking care of their waste sustainably and efficiently because that’s the only way we see how our waste crisis can be overcome. Please feel free to contact us for project inquiries at [email protected].

GEPP Author:

Mayuree is the Co-founder and CEO of GEPP. She is passionate in driving the change in how waste is managed for better environment. She is specialized and experienced in implementing transformation programs for organizations and data analytics.

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