“The only constant is change.” The words from the ancient philosopher, Heracleitus, ring true today – and while this simple concept helps us realize the inevitable nature of change, it does not help us answer the question: how will we change?
Change is a natural law of the universe, yet our society is primed to focus on the outcome, rather than the process of change itself; however, any business owner or director of an organization knows that details are key to ensuring the change we create is positive. When considering change within businesses or organizations, it is important to consider growth and expansion, but also, contraction and streamlining processes. If a company wants to grow, it must hire more talent, invest in education and resources, and acquire a space that fits its needs – but in order to make this change, organizations must eliminate what is no longer needed; this is called a decommission.
WHAT IS A ‘DECOMMISSION’?
A decommission is a dismantling of what was, a change that is deconstructive in nature yet yields a positive outcome. This includes spaces that a business has outgrown, a company that is closing its doors, an organization with different needs, or a school that is changing locations. Whatever the case, the process requires careful planning and focused efforts to recover, refurbish, and resell assets.
Shutting down an industrial asset has a huge impact on waste management. It not only has the potential to disrupt waste streams but also has potential consequences for the nearby community. There are also environmental impacts of a decommission, such as dust and debris from waste handling. Therefore, it is important to employ industrial expertise of what can be reused and what needs to be recycled. The goal of a decommission is zero waste, and this is often accomplished by investigating the needs of the local community to discover what remaining items can be donated.
Decommissioning can be complicated, costly, and downright daunting. If done correctly (with or without multiple vendors), this can result in less waste, lower costs, and increased transparency and familiarity with the local waste stream. A decommission can arise out of necessity, or simply the desire to take a bigger step towards sustainability by letting go of what your business no longer needs!
HOW DO DECOMMISSIONS WORK?
When planning a decommission, it is important to consider plans for the long term. Creating a vision for post-decommission is key: what will be the impact of the building after the occupants have left, and what will become of its parts? To answer these questions, it is key to consider the people and view all materials as potential assets.
Companies like Smart Waste collaborate with community-minded vendors to ensure all resources stay in the supply chain. For example, e-waste decommissions require specialized knowledge of electronics and associated parts. Partners assess what is valuable, and work to reuse resources as many times as possible, such as refurbishing laptops and sending them to communities in need.
The goal of any decommissioning project should be to approach the location in the most sustainable way possible, diverting nearly every object from the landfill. It is important to connect with vendors who are commissioned to focus on either recycling, reusing, or repurposing all of the items that were to leave the building. With many years of waste management expertise, companies like Smart Waste are able to assess whether items can be resold, reused, donated, or recycled.
Although a decommission requires taking things apart, there is an immense opportunity to benefit from this type of change. Any company might require decommissioning projects, depending on their business. Whether they are downsizing, moving buildings, or creating new construction, there are many reasons why a company might want to eliminate certain materials from their current space.
THE VALUE OF A DECOMMISSION
Many different types of businesses or organizations choose to do decommissioning projects. The benefits of sustainable decommissioning are extensive. First and foremost, there is less waste entering the landfill. This inevitably lowers the costs through fewer landfill dumps and fees for transportation. Additionally, decommissioning projects help make connections and establish trust and transparency within the local community. Through the intelligent repurposing of materials, the surrounding community is made aware that the ‘waste’ is going to a good place, and not just the landfill.
Responsibly downsizing is also a key factor in corporate social responsibility (CSR). By practicing corporate social responsibility, companies can be conscious of the kind of impact they are having on all aspects of society, including economic, social, and environmental. To engage in CSR means that, in the ordinary course of business, a company is operating in ways that enhance society and the environment, instead of contributing negatively to them.
With any decommissioning project, it is vital to be inclusive. Decommissioning offers an incredible opportunity to empower the community and involve them in the decision-making of how resources are reused and dispersed. The principles to adopt when downsizing include sourcing sustainable partnerships, connecting with property owners to negotiate terms to furnish space, working with vendors that have sustainable landfill policies, and donating to the local community. When companies actively seek out opportunities to reuse, resale, auction off, and donate, resources are kept in the supply change, which fosters a circular economy.
There is another saying inspired by architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe: Less is more. Many businesses have embraced this concept through decommissioning. This type of change holds a great opportunity for companies to do good for local communities, and the environment, and eliminate what is no longer needed in order to change for the better.