Patchwork Regulations: Headed for a Zip Code Near You

Dan Olson

Multi-site companies have a unique and often painful challenge when it comes to waste regulation that I typically formulate as follows:

  • The majority of non-hazardous waste regulations are developed at a local level―by states, counties, or even cities.
  • Each marketplace has different waste end-life options (i.e. source-separated recycling, single-stream recycling, composting, anaerobic digestion, incineration, landfill, etc.)
  • Each end-life option in each marketplace has a different cost.
  • And if your head isn’t spinning already, waste service vendors often fail to provide any waste data― information representing site-by-site service levels, costs, and waste generation weights or volumes― or they provide information of such poor quality that the analysts tasked with “scrubbing” said “data” would prefer it never existed to begin with.

If you work at a corporate headquarters and have hundreds, maybe thousands of locations across the county, when regulations hit, how are you supposed to know? And when you find out, what should you do about it?

Both of these questions are top of mind for many Ecova clients―especially on the heels of Massachusetts’ recent announcement prohibiting commercial operators from landfilling food waste if they produce more than 1 ton per week. There’s also California’s law, currently on the books and in force, mandating recycling at all commercial operations that produce more than four cubic yards of waste per week. These are just two recent examples from the hundreds of localized waste disposal regulations that your company may need to comply with.

Regulation of non-hazardous waste is growing and managing it successfully can be complex. Here are some tips and tricks from the pros:

YOU MUST CONQUER YOUR WASTE DATA PROBLEM…AND YES, IT IS A PROBLEM

If you lack accurate data that reflects what waste containers you have deployed at your locations, the volume of waste handled by those containers, and their costs―then you will be hard pressed to make ANY good decisions about waste management. Chances are your data set is riddled with holes in one or all of these three categories.

TRACK WASTE REGULATIONS AS THEY PROGRESS THROUGH RULE-MAKING PROCESSES

Keep your eyes and ears on the lookout for municipality by municipality waste regulations. The key here is to avoid getting caught flat footed. The last thing you want is to incur fines or bad press by running afoul of the law.

BUILD A PROACTIVE ZERO-WASTE PROGRAM…A SMART ONE

Waste diversion programs need not be cost-centers. Utilizing metrics and a market-by-market understanding of infrastructure availability, costs, and existing or pending regulations, your waste program can serve as both a regulatory risk avoidance tool and cash machine. Oh―and most of your employees and consumers will appreciate your efforts to save the earth, so there’s that, too.

Actively managing your waste stream―mitigating regulatory and cost risk while maximizing cost reduction efforts―is becoming a corporate norm as both risk and opportunity pile up in this resource category that has, historically, seen little corporate-wide management. Business by business, we will build a better waste industry, forcing the issue on data fidelity and access, getting ahead of regulatory changes, finding efficiencies, and reducing our environmental impacts. Fortunately, you’re not alone in your efforts.

If you’d like additional information on how we can help you better manage your waste, contact your Ecova client manager or visit our waste management page.

Related content:

No comments yet.

Comment on this post