Trash Equalling Cash

August 7, 1998

By Michael Jessen

Is your business WasteWi$e? A program to prevent waste, maximize recycling, and purchase recycled products could add thousands of dollars annually to your company's balance sheet.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency developed the WasteWi$e program in 1994 to assist businesses in taking cost-effective actions to reduce solid waste. For some of the more than 600 participants, the savings have climbed into the millions of dollars per year!

Why should your business reduce solid waste? Each of the three waste reduction activities in the WasteWi$e program offers distinct benefits, both for the environment and your bottom line.

Waste prevention can save your company money through lower purchasing and disposal costs. It can also save your customers money by reducing what they throw out. Avoiding the generation of waste reduces the burden on disposal facilities, conserves natural resources, and often reduces pollution. Some ways to prevent waste are to use less of a material, reuse materials and supplies, and purchase products that create less waste.

Maximizing the collection of recyclables can help keep large amounts of material out of your company's dumpster. It reduces your waste disposal bill and generates revenues from the sale of materials for your community's recycling program. Recycling offers some of the same environmental benefits as waste prevention: extending the life of landfills, conserving natural resources, and reducing pollution. Items collected for recycling will vary depending on the materials your company generates and the availability of markets for those materials. Collection of recyclables is a high-profile activity that many companies are already enthusiastically implementing.

Recycled products are of high quality and can be competitively priced compared to virgin products. Buying and manufacturing goods with recycled content helps ensure that recycling will continue to advance and will eventually help lower the cost of recycled products. Buying recycled means purchasing products that contain high percentages of postconsumer recovered materials. Work with your suppliers and vendors to determine which products contain recycled content. Manufacturing recycled, an option available to manufacturers, means increasing the amount of postconsumer recovered materials in products, thus ensuring that collected materials are used in new products.

Here are some impressive examples of WasteWi$e success stories. Dow Chemical Company saved $4 million in 1996 through ongoing packaging reduction efforts. Activities included standardizing specs and down-grading steel drum thickness, implementing inplant labelling, and reducing corrugated and kraft paper primary packaging.

McDonalds saved $3 million through source reduction efforts in 1996, including reducing the size of napkins by one inch.

Pepsi-Cola saved more than $44 million in 1995 by replacing one-way corrugated shipping containers with reusable plastic cases.

BellSouth saved over $16 million by reducing paper printouts through increased use of an electronic filing system.

The California Integrated Waste Management Board saved over $100,000 by reducing photocopying and eliminating duplicate copies of documents and reports distributed at meetings.

If your Kootenay area business implements the WasteWi$e program, your savings may not be high as some of these large U.S. companies but you will be going a long way to protecting your firm's bottom line.

You can find out more about WasteWi$e through the Internet at: (

TRASH TIP - Every year, businesses in Canada pitch out 6.6 million tonnes of garbage. That's enough to fill 2,300 football fields to the top of the goal posts.

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