Are Waste & Compliance Eating Your Profits? One Simple Shift Can Save Your Small Manufacturing Business

Social IssuesEnvironment

  • Author K-M. Denyse Jones, Rem, Cesm
  • Published May 22, 2024
  • Word count 1,126

No small business owner or general manager wants their profits to disappear due to environmental challenges. Waste management is just one of many culprits that can impact your bottom line.

Resources are wasted when your control and disposal methods are inefficient and non-compliant. The operation suffers due to the lost time, effort, and money that could have been reinvested in the company to spur increased growth. But every problem has a solution.

With a well-crafted, strategic shift in waste management, small manufacturing outfits can reduce their non-compliance risk and support a thriving bottom line. This post will explore three strategies to convert your current waste and hazardous waste management efforts from burdensome to money-saving:

  • Classifying Your Waste Streams for Insight

  • Embracing Smart Segregation to Streamline and Save

  • Leveraging Expertise for Effective Waste Management Solutions

Classifying Your Waste Streams for Insight

Hidden opportunities for heightened environmental responsibility and cost reductions abound. How do you find them? Small enterprises should start the journey with a comprehensive waste audit.

Such an assessment will prompt you to identify and categorize all the waste generated in the production process. The knowledge garnered by the exercise will enable the operation to determine sound waste management solutions to boost efficiency and save money.

For example, suppose an electronics manufacturer uncovered during a waste audit that a substantial portion of their discarded materials was due to defective circuit boards and electronic components. Armed with this specific information, the enterprise can now take the prudent step of exploring suitable e-waste recycling alternatives.

Without the assessment, the business may have missed the opportunity to responsibly dispose of these items and potentially recover some of the material costs from the precious metals and rare earth elements contained in the waste.

Actionable Waste Audit Tips

Assign a team member with solid knowledge of your process to walk through your entire process. Begin with raw materials receiving and move along through the finished products. At every step, note all the materials used and byproducts created. Furthermore, sites can utilize the same process to evaluate support operations like maintenance, warehousing, and administration.

As necessary, samples of each waste stream should be collected in clear plastic bags, and each bag should be labeled with the suspected waste type, generation location, and collection date. Doing so will aid in definitive waste identification and determination of proper disposal methods.

Embracing Smart Segregation to Streamline and Save

Improper waste disposal leads to wasted cash. As such, savvy small manufacturers devise and implement well-defined, value-added waste segregation systems. Most schemes employ color-coded, labeled bins for each waste category.

It almost sounds too simple. Yet, you shouldn't let simplicity diminish the importance of proper segregation. Facilities that execute such a schema often experience the following:

• Cost Savings – Mixed waste streams increase disposal costs. Operations that receive waste may reject loads deemed contaminated or not meeting disposal specifications, translating to added expenses for you. Segregation ensures each waste goes where it needs to go. It also allows companies to uncover more cost-effective disposal options per waste type.

• Compliance – Regulatory fines are a real possibility for locations that fail to segregate waste properly. For instance, used paint and solvents have more stringent disposal requirements than run-of-the-mill garbage. Disposing of the items with your regular trash violates environmental rules and increases exposure to non-compliance. A well-devised segregation methodology supports robust compliance, violation avoidance, and pollution prevention.

• Employee Efficiency – Confusion only adds fuel to the non-compliance fire. Why not empower employees with a defined, unambiguous waste segregation strategy? Dedicated bins and easy-to-understand labels help workers to sidestep misunderstandings and mistakes. Knowing exactly how and where to dispose of each substance saves valuable time, streamlining the process and reducing the chances of accidental mixing and contamination.

Actionable Waste Segregation Tips

Small enterprises should invest in appropriate waste containers. Moreover, ensure each container is color-coded if desired and prominently labeled with concise wording, like "Cardboard Recycling", "Waste Bulbs", or "Landfill Waste", to identify the contents. When choosing containers, pay special attention to regulatory requirements and act accordingly.

Strategically place these bins, vessels, etc., throughout your location, positioning multiple collection containers in high-waste generation stations like cutting stations or assembly lines. This framework will allow for easy worker access, increasing efficiency and effectiveness.

Leveraging Expertise for Effective Waste Management Solutions

Too many small businesses shy away from expert environmental assistance. Unfortunately, they learn the error of their inaction only when a notice is received accompanied by a hefty penalty.

Collaborating with reputable waste management partners can significantly reduce your headaches, ensure compliance with standards, and even uncover new revenue-generating options you didn't know existed.

Waste management companies, environmental consultants, and small business advisory groups can provide practical resources to help companies stay abreast of changing requirements and disposal techniques. Your operation can reap benefits like the ones below when working with these providers:

• Customized Solutions – A waste management consultant will engage with you to assess the unique needs of your business and develop a custom waste management strategy. The plan will account for the site's distinctive waste streams, generation volumes, and budget to suggest the best-fit disposal methods for each waste stream.

• Compliance Expertise – Navigating ever-changing environmental rules can overwhelm and frustrate small businesses. Waste experts make it their business to know and understand the latest regulations and best management practices. By tapping into their expertise, you can protect your operation from violations and promote responsible environmental stewardship.

• Revenue Opportunities: Depending on the vendor, additional services like on-site waste processing or resource recovery may be available for your location. Just envision this scenario . . . your waste vendor offers to chip scrap wood from your woodworking shop. Your business can then sell the chips that were once scrapped wood as beneficial raw materials to other companies and individuals, creating a new revenue stream from what was initially a disposal expense.

Actionable Tips for Leveraging Expertise

Small companies must research, compare, and thoroughly vet the waste management companies and compliance experts within their market. Review several options before deciding which vendor you will partner with.

Look for a vendor with knowledge and experience in your industry and a proven track record of reducing environmental costs and attaining stellar compliance results for locations similar to yours. Inquire about the services offered, including customized program creation, compliance know-how, and potential money-making channels.

Concluding Thoughts on Managing Small Business Waste

Strategic approaches produce best-in-class results. Incorporating waste stream identification, intelligent segregation methods, and waste management provider partnerships can help small establishments reduce risk, stay compliant, and remain competitive.

Utilizing this straightforward, three-pronged strategy can assist any operation in shifting its waste management thinking from loser to hero. Put the framework into action to boost your small operation's bottom line and cultivate a robust, positive impact for a greener future.

K-M. Denyse Jones, REM, CESM is an environmental, health, & safety consultant specializing in EHS compliance and management strategies for small to mid-sized establishments. Her clients realize reduced risk, cost savings, and enhanced business reputations.

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