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Sustainability

Corporate Recycling Programs

September 07, 2011
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Care for the environment is a major goal for most large companies, but implementing recycling programs on a large scale can be a headache.

Image courtesy of Rubbermaid Commercial Products LLC In fact, the term "corporate program" carries with it baggage that suggests top-down mandates that are out of touch with specific facility needs; most facilities feel like they are just fine with solving their own environmental problems and they don''t need someone in a corporate office hundreds of miles away telling them what to do.

While the wariness of mandated environmental programs is often legitimate, there are several reasons why corporate-wide recycling programs are essential for multi-site organizations to put into place.

The most obvious reasons for implementing a corporate recycling program are cost and time savings.

Buying recycling products in bulk is usually cheaper, and many recycling companies are willing to provide discounts when they are guaranteed business over a long period of time.

A company-wide program also means that individual facilities don''t have to spend time researching and chasing down their own recycling solutions: This results in significant collective time savings.

Mark Scott, senior chief operating engineer for CB Richard Ellis in Suwanee, Georgia, recalls his company''s situation before they put a corporate recycling program into place: "It was very frustrating," he said. "We had to spend a lot of time tracking down local vendors, and they were difficult to manage because they all had different ways of doing business."

A second reason why corporate recycling programs are beneficial is that they ensure universal participation and compliance.

If facilities are allowed to "go it alone" and remain responsible for their own recycling, there is a good chance that some facilities won''t see the overall value in taking the time or money to setup their own program.

Non-participation by even a small number of facilities can not only inhibit the overall green goals of the organization, but just one waste violation detected by a state Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) office can also result in large fines.

While tens of thousands of dollars in fines are never good, the negative press from just one violation can significantly tarnish the green reputation of a company and reduce consumer confidence in the environmental concerns of the organization.

Corporate recycling programs can also provide a way for entire companies to track their overall green progress.

When multiple facilities are all part of one program, there is one central reporting standard, allowing recycling progress to be quantified and compared.

Without a company-wide recycling program that has standardized reporting for all its facilities, there is no simple way to collect and analyze data from facilities that are recycling or even a way to make sure that a facility is recycling at all.

Inability to quantify recycling progress turns into a missed opportunity for marketing green efforts to customers; for example, being able to back up your commitment to sustainable practices with hard data on pounds of batteries recycled is much more of a green selling point than simply saying, "We''re a green company."

A Fresh Approach To Universal Waste

One problem that facilities have with recycling is figuring out the best way to properly dispose of their universal waste.

Universal waste includes fluorescent bulbs, batteries and mercury-containing equipment such as thermostats, ballasts and other types of electronic waste.

It is often required to be recycled by state environmental agencies, and just one violation of state universal waste disposal rules can cost tens of thousands of dollars in fines.

When recycling companies setup a corporate program, they usually are able to provide recycling solutions at a discounted rate.

In many cases, corporate facilities are able to save up to 35 percent off manufacturer''s suggested retail price (MSRP) because of the bulk ordering of recycling products.

Multiply this across hundreds of facilities nationwide and a company can experience thousands in savings per year.

Corporate recycling programs also result in significant timesaving for each facility.

The timesaving occurs because facilities don''t have to go around looking for good deals on recycling solutions.

Scott has seen these benefits at his facilities: "The initial setup of the program and our current recycling process is streamlined and very user friendly, especially compared to what we were doing before."

Now, Scott and his staff across the multiple locations that he manages can simply log in to their corporate recycling web portal — a feature some leading recycling companies can offer clients — and select the products and services they need.

Corporate programs make it easy for each individual facility to start recycling their waste.

While each program differs, most involve a simple signup process through a customized website or web portal.

Once the program starts, each facility is given directions on how to access the site or portal and log in to start their program.

Often, logging in to the program involves little more than entering basic contact and billing information in order to setup an account.

Once a facility''s account is in place, they can start ordering recycling products and services themselves.

There''s no complicated paperwork or forms to fill out, and some companies even have a dedicated number that facilities can call for assistance with any aspect of setting up an account or ordering recycling solutions.

Once logged in, a facility can order the specific recycling solutions that it needs, at the exact time it requires them, and with preferential pricing as a part of the corporate program.

This eliminates wasteful spending on incorrect types or sizes of recycling containers and guarantees that a facility will have the right type of container when it needs it.

The ease of setting up a program guarantees a high participation rate, which ultimately means that a company using the program is all the more compliant with universal waste regulations.

Companies that put a corporate program in place mitigate the risk of universal waste-related violations and fines.

Regulations can change, but leading companies ensure that their recycling solutions meet the requirements for each state where facilities are located.

Paul Hildreth, project director at Marriott International Inc., discusses his experience with corporate programs: "We believe that [a corporate program] offers our hotels an easier and more eco-friendly option to dispose of fluorescent bulbs. It''s a great solution for hotels in states where regulations are continuously evolving to meet environmental demands."

Companies that aren''t able to measure exactly how their universal waste recycling programs are progressing face two problems: They can''t track amounts of waste recycled and they can''t easily publicize green efforts to consumers or regulatory officials.

The cornerstone of tracking and publication tools is their ability to offer web-based recycling reports.

These reports track every type of universal waste that each individual facility recycles and displays the totals in sortable categories like year, month and waste type.

Recycling reports can be viewed for individual facilities or for the company as a whole.

The reports are detailed, but are also easy to access and understand, guaranteeing that any employee can quickly get a good picture of his or her facility''s recycling progress.

These reports are perfect for providing the data that affords a solid foundation to green marketing campaigns.

Another tool used by facilities to recycle all types of bulbs, batteries, ballasts or electronic waste is mail-in recycling containers.

Facilities fill up the containers with waste and then ship them off to a recycling center.

At any given time, employees using this tool can see the status of containers within their corporate program.

This means that a company can see which of its facilities are actually ordering, filling and returning their containers and which facilities have neglected to start recycling with them.

For a corporate recycling program to be a success, high participation rates are imperative, and container tracking is one more tool to make sure that each facility is doing its part.

Another simple yet valuable tool is official certificates of recycling.

These certificates are issued to facilities after they recycle their waste with a bulk pickup.

They provide official recognition of the amount and type of waste recycled and are perfect for proving to regulatory officials that a facility is disposing of their waste properly.

Once issued, the certificates are available 24/7 online and are easily printed or e-mailed.

Scott knows about the benefits of these certificates: "Our customers in our buildings want to see proof that we are recycling our waste properly. All we have to do is lookup the recycling certificate online and print it out to show them how well we''re doing."

Conclusion

Any corporate program involving multiple facilities across many different locations is never easy to launch or maintain.

However, this article has hopefully convinced you that a corporate recycling program is worth the effort.

There are efficient and effective options out there to meet your organization''s unique needs.

Getting a well-run and continuous recycling program in place at your company is a big step towards full environmental sustainability, and your employees, customers and regulatory officials will thank you for it.


Aaron Griffith is marketing project manager for Air Cycle Corporation. Headquartered in Broadview, Illinois, Air Cycle provides solutions to help facilities recycle their fluorescent lamps, batteries, ballasts and electronic waste. Their products include the Bulb Eater™ lamp crushing system, EasyPak™ prepaid recycling containers and nationwide bulk pickup recycling service. You can check out Air Cycle online at www.AirCycle.com or www.LampRecycling.com. For more information call 800-909-9709 or send an e-mail to info@aircycle.com.

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