Effective Recycling Programs: Save Money by Avoiding Contamination

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Today, there is less and less space in landfills; however, due to innovative technology and sustainable businesses, there are more and more things we can recycle: plastic, paper, glass, cardboard, and aluminum – but also clothes, batteries, and food. 

As an R2 Certified Recycler, Smart Waste understands that recycling is more than just sorting paper, plastic, and glass; it is understanding what can be recycled and also, how. In order to understand how things can best be recycled, it is critical that companies understand the nuances of contamination. 

Demonstrating the ways waste can be sorted to avoid contamination

Trash sorting containers – Preventing cross contamination and fees.

What is Contamination? 

Contamination is when the wrong item is placed in the wrong bin. Oftentimes, it is someone accidentally throwing a non-recyclable item into the recycling. Other times, it is someone recycling an item that has not been rinsed or cleaned. Contamination can occur in a number of ways; while these actions are seemingly innocent, even something small, like putting trash or organics into the recycling bin, can contaminate the entire bin. This is further complicated depending on where you live because contamination depends on which recycling facilities exist in your area. 

As responsible consumers and waste creators, we should always be on the safe side: avoid contamination by rinsing your material, double-check the recycling category, and place it (mindfully) in the correct bin. Proper recycling practices are something we should be taught in school – but unfortunately, many of the employees in the workforce today grew up without recycling, and so it is just now becoming the “new normal.” 

Each time something goes into the wrong bin, or hasn’t been properly disposed of either through incorrect placement or lack of cleaning, that entire bin is labeled as contaminated, and must be redirected to a different waste stream. This is not only an environmental problem, but can become costly as the fees for additional landfill dumps are increasing. Therefore, companies are being pressured to have a recycling program – but without proper education and training employees on what goes where, a recycling program can become costly due to contamination fines.

Demonstrating examples of different waste containers that prevent cross-contamination

Examples of the different types of waste that can be sorted – Kept separate these waste streams can be properly re-integrated into the circular economy.

The Cost of Contamination

Across the world, sanitary districts are taking action on irresponsible recycling. Contamination fines have been seen to range anywhere from a few dollars per dumpster to upwards of $100,000 per year. In extreme cases, districts have charged businesses for every item placed in the wrong bin, leading to costly one time fines. 

As individuals, we can take initiative to avoid contamination fines at home – but if you are running a business, there is a larger margin for error. To get started on tackling these challenges, Smart Waste offers waste audits so that companies can begin to assess how to avoid contamination fees and run the most efficient recycling program possible. Smart Waste can also provide your company with a Certificate of Recycling, and help train employees and janitorial staff on disposal best practices. 

As a larger business unit, you and your company have more of an impact to reduce contamination at the source. Commercial garbage services can get complicated, but everyone has a stake in proper recycling. It is important to have on-site or external professionals like Smart Waste to help translate the complexity of a waste program. This will not only benefit the environment, but also save garbage loads of money in the long run. 

Of course, the best way to avoid any fines on commercial garbage services is to generate no waste! Although zero waste may seem like a challenge on a large scale, companies can make a huge impact on generating less with the proper practices in place – this includes eliminating things like paper cups and plastic utensils, but also, instilling a smart waste culture. 

Demonstrating the different types of recyclable trash that can be separated into different waste streams.

Examples of the different types of trash that can and should be sorted – helping your company operate with consciousness around its waste production.

Why Recycle?

Recycling is no longer a status symbol, an identifier of an ‘environmentally-conscious’ company; it is now a necessity. As available space in landfill’s decreases, the cost of sending waste to landfills is increasing. Fortunately, recycling is an option that is good for the planet and also helps keep resources in the supply chain. 

Depending on where you live, most of your recycling will be sent to a material recovery facility, known as a MRF (check out Smart Waste’s podcast to learn about the differences between a “clean MRF” and a “dirty MRF”). At these facilities, materials are sorted and directed into the proper recycling streams where they can be processed and reused in the circular economy. While technology has improved the process of waste sorting, MRF’s are still very much driven by human hands. At a “dirty” MRF, employees will help separate the trash from the recycling; at a “clean” MRF, employees will sort recyclables based on what can and cannot be accepted. 

As an individual, you have a moral responsibility to support the efficacy of MRFs; as a business, you have a significant impact on increasing the efficiency and supporting the environment. Smart Waste works with businesses who want to move in the direction of a circular economy, and this starts by implementing effective waste management programs. 

Smart Waste handles every aspect of your waste management plan, from equipment leases to full program implementation for waste sorting, recycling, hauling, and trash removal – book us for a complimentary consultation to understand what steps your company can take to save money and reduce trash!

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