Each year, Rubicon is approached by customers of all shapes, sizes, and industries looking to implement more sustainable business practices, particularly when it comes to waste and recycling. While there’s no “one-size fits all” solution, there are a series of practical steps that have been proven to work effectively, regardless of whether you’re working in a large office environment or a small business shop.
Whether it’s paper, plastic, cardboard, organic, electronics or even hazardous waste, your business is likely throwing away something that could be reused, recycled, or even eliminated from the start. The worst part? Both your business and our environment are paying for it.
Did You Know? — Most recyclable materials in the U.S. wind up in landfills (or even waterways), instead of being recycled. Did you know that the U.S. recycling rate is only 34%? That lags far behind many other nations around the globe.
We’ve compiled a list of practical steps that will help your business solve the most common waste challenges as well as provide detailed instructions on how to make a sustainability program work for your business. We call it the RUBICONMethod.
The RUBICONMethod itself consists of six basic steps which will guide your business or organization through initial examination and planning, fundamentals for communication and waste reduction, and finally to tactical implementation and tracking.
Are you ready to get your hands dirty with us?
Over the next several weeks, we’ll be sharing information on each of the six steps to the RUBICONMethod right here on our blog. You also can download the full guide to utilize the checklists and worksheets provided and work through each step in more detail and at your own pace.
This week, we begin with…
Step 1: Determine
The first step of the RUBICONMethod is to determine your current waste landscape. This includes the types of waste materials being collected, the services and equipment used for collection, and the local infrastructure for accepting and processing different materials.
To start, let’s take a look at the…
Current state of your waste and recycling program
Begin by making a list of the most prevalent waste materials your business produces. This checklist (below) can help get you started.
Common Waste Materials
- Food waste
- Plastic bottles
- Metal cans
- Foodservice ware
- Plastic film
- Napkins/paper hand towels
- Bio/medical or hazardous
Now examine the services and equipment used to dispose of the waste materials in your list above.
Which combination of these various types of waste removal services does your business have?
Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) — Common, run-of-the-mill “trash” or “garbage” consisting of everyday discarded items that are landfilled or incinerated
Single Stream Recycling (SSR) or Mixed Recycling — Unsorted recyclables often including plastic, metal, glass, and paper
Organics Recycling — Organic, food or plant-based material sent to compost/anaerobic digestion
Food Donation — Food items collected as donations for local food banks
Cardboard/OCC Recycling — Cardboard boxes and packaging, often broken down and baled for rebates
Electronics Recycling — Electronic parts and devices recycled for components or refurbished
Hazardous Waste — Acids, chemicals, bio-waste, etc. which cannot be disposed of by regular means
Once you’ve identified the current state of your waste and recycling program, you then need to know about…
Accepted materials and local regulations
Waste and recycling facilities vary from one location to another. Before you can initiate a plan (Step 2), you will need to know which of your waste materials above are (or are not) accepted by your local facilities.
Below is a list of materials that occasionally are not accepted in certain areas. Check with your waste provider and/or public works department and mark the materials that are not accepted in your area. If your business operates in multiple locations, repeat the activity below for each location.
- Plastic bags/film
- Flexible packaging
- Organic/food waste
- Hazardous waste
- Compostable serviceware
- Aluminum cans
- Steel cans
- Plastics (#1-7)
After you’ve done a bit of research into accepted material and local regulations, shift your focus toward your business’…
Needs, goals, and opportunities
Make a list of the specific needs for your site, as well as opportunities. Take time to set goals around waste reduction and sustainability. Sharing these goals will help your key stakeholders understand why this project is meaningful and requires their help.
By working through the above bullets, you will have determined your current waste landscape and will be prepared to move on to Step 2 of the RUBICONMethod.
For the complete step-by-step guide to implementing a successful waste and recycling program, click here.