Investigate buying and waste habits

Developing a money-saving source reduction program means you'll need to  investigate your company's current purchasing and waste disposal practices.

Getting to know purchasing policies.

Purchasing departments exist solely to exercise the company's clout in buying goods and services.  They're there to get your business the right deal at the best price.

They know the markets, and they know many of the suppliers.  So it's a good idea to have them integrally involved in your source reduction efforts.  Chances are they have a good handle on where the waste comes from and will be extremely interested in cutting it.

Let them help you identify wasteful practices and what types of wastes are being discarded.  Together, review those wastes and ask:

Investigate your company's current waste disposal practices

Identifying source reduction steps also means you'll need to assess your company's present waste disposal practices.  Let your purchasing department help you here, too, since they probably were involving in negotiating any waste-handling agreements.

If these services are handled by employees rather than contractors, recruit your maintenance people to help in your investigation.  You must have a good grip on how refuse is currently handled before you can assess your company's waste stream.

To determine present disposal costs, review the terms of the company's present waste-hauling agreement to determine use of disposal services and their costs.

One way your company can save money from reducing waste is by paying less in landfill or incinerator tipping fees.  If you're currently paying a flat rate for disposal rather than a rate based on weight or volume, you may want to consider renegotiating how your company is charged.

Get to know what's in your company's waste stream

The best way to determine what's being thrown away is to examine the trash.

That's right.  Dig.  Don't just look in dumpsters and trash cans.  Do it more than once because the waste stream may vary over time due to changes in factors like season, projects and volume of work.

Also ask employees what they throw away.   Especially ask the cleaning staff what they see being thrown away.  Compare the information from purchasing about what you company buys to information about what ends up in the dumpster.

While every workstation is likely to generate some waste, like any good detective, you need to look beyond the obvious.  This is where an understanding of product flow within your business may help pinpoint ways to reduce waste.

Examine the condition of the material thrown out.   Could some items be reused?  For an interesting assessment of your company's waste stream, compare it to waste-composition studies of similar businesses.  Your solid waste management district should be able to help here.

Although waste composition data can shed some light on materials your business is likely to generate, waste audits provide more precise information.  If you company is very large or has a complex waste stream, get some help from your solid waste management district.

SOURCE:  The Bottom Line:  A Guide to Waste Reduction for New York State Businesses, New York State Department of Economic Development, Albany, NY 1992.