California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) 

Business Waste Reduction

Encouraging Top Management to Support Waste Reduction Efforts

Every day more companies are taking steps to save money and our natural resources through waste reduction efforts. Where do you begin? As a first step, you will need to gain the support of top management. Every organization is a bit different so you will need to modify these ideas to make them work for you.

Before approaching management with your waste reduction ideas, consider investigating the pros and cons of your ideas. You will be able to make a stronger and more convincing assessment of why waste reduction, the practice of waste prevention and recycling, is important to your business.

Get your foot in the door. Meeting with the right people is essential, but in large organizations this is not always easy. Every organization has its own decision making process, so it would be best to ask several people for ideas.

Determine which decision makers need to support your waste reduction program. Who has the ability to make decisions about operations, purchasing, products, packaging, and services? Usually it's the CEO, owner or other senior managers.

Network--find people who have access to the decision makers and ask for their help. You may not have direct access to decision makers, but you may know someone who does. Ask these people how to best approach decision makers. Do you need to make a presentation? How much detail should it contain? Some managers like to approve general concepts while others want more specific details. Every manager has his or her own style.

Set up a meeting and make a convincing presentation. Managers often have very little spare time. Make your presentation clear, concise, factual, and persuasive.

Collect information and ideas to present to management to show the problem. Is there a problem? You bet there is. Californians generate 45 million tons of waste each year and about 61 percent of this waste comes from commercial and industrial sources. All of us, at home and work, have a responsibility to conserve resources for future generations.

Make a short video or take photographs of waste generated at your company. Photograph dumpsters and trash cans in various locations. Show the video or pictures to management and employees. Select images that represent problems, but do not come across too negatively toward any individual or department.

  • Explain that California cities and counties are mandated by the Integrated Waste Management Act (AB 939), to divert their solid waste from landfills by 25 percent in 1995 and 50 percent in the year 2000, or face significant fines.
  • Explain what the competition is doing or will be doing soon.
  • Are any of your competitors actively reducing waste? In almost every field a few firms have active waste reduction efforts. Emphasize economic savings or public relations gains that your competitors may be realizing through their waste reduction efforts. Don't get lost behind the competition.
  • Show videos geared toward business managers. Keep California Beautiful has two videos that provide several examples of how businesses are saving money and reducing waste.

Highlight potential savings from waste reduction. The most common benefits cited from waste prevention and recycling efforts are savings in purchasing and waste disposal costs. Depending on the type of waste reduction practice, you may also need to look at changes in labor costs, utility costs, storage space, printing costs, and postage.

  • Purchase Cost: The purchase cost of one product multiplied by the number needed in a year gives the cost for each year. For example, if product A costs $0.35 each and 365 are used year, the purchase cost is $128 each year. Similarly, if product B costs $80 and lasts 2 years, one-half of the product is used each year resulting in an amortized purchase cost of $40 each year. Include the cost of other items that would be used together. For example, reusable items may require soap for cleaning and disposable items may require additional trash bags.
  • Waste Hauling and Disposal Cost: The combined impact of several waste prevention actions may decrease the level of waste removal services (e.g., number of bins, weight of bins, or frequency of pickups) your business needs. You can renegotiate waste removal contracts when they expire or, if stated in your contract, you may be able to reduce the level of service at any time. This results in cost savings referred to as avoided disposal cost. Keep in mind that these savings can only be realized when there is a downsize in waste removal service. A single waste reduction effort may not eliminate the need for a bin, but several efforts may.
  • Labor Cost: To assess labor requirements, estimate time required to order, stock, service, and dispose of comparable products. With known labor costs and time requirements for each activity, labor costs can be effectively estimated. Labor costs do not actually change for a facility unless staff hours are either subtracted or added to payroll as a result of the action. In other words, if existing staff can integrate work into their current schedules, labor costs do not change.
  • Utility Costs: Compare product efficiency and assess the need for energy and water. Also, find out if any rebates are available. For instance, washing reusable dishes requires energy and water. The costs of these resources should be added to the cost of the product. Purchase of an energy- or water-efficient dishwasher may qualify your company for a rebate, affecting costs.
  • Storage Space: Some waste prevention efforts, such as using a send-and-return envelope (the envelope used for mailing a bill is used for the return check) decrease storage needs. Other waste prevention practices may change storage needs in other ways. For example, switching from disposable to washable plates would shift space requirements from dry goods storage areas to space near a dishwasher. Recycling programs may demand additional storage space for holding recyclables between pickups.
  • Printing Costs: When there is a reduction in the number of copies that must be printed, there is a savings in printing or copying costs. This may occur when reports are distributed electronically, mailing lists are updated so fewer copies are needed, and documents are shortened (a document is double-sided, has a smaller font or smaller margins, etc.)
  • Postage: This is often overlooked. Less mailing reduces postage costs in addition to saving paper. First class mail costs $7,000 per ton while the paper itself costs about $1,000 per ton!

Indicate likely reactions by customers, Board of Directors, and stockholders. Determine how key groups will respond to changes in your products, packaging, and improved internal operations. Today's public is concerned about the environment. Your efforts to reduce waste may translate into positive public relations and greater sales.

Have persistence and patience. Don't get discouraged. Everyone who starts up a successful program faces obstacles. Sometimes an idea is presented at a time when it must compete with more urgent matters. And there will always be a few people who will object to any change. Be patient and keep trying.

Ask to set up a pilot. Many managers are willing to try something new for a limited period of time, if it supports their image of quality and saves money.

Give management ideas on how they can help. You will need management to participate in kick-off events, sign memorandums and letters, and endorse the program by setting an example.

Encourage management to adopt environmental policies. Set the tone of management's support by developing a policy statement for management approval.

Ask management to allow staff time to work on program. Staff and managers working on waste reduction will need time to develop a plan, test new ideas, measure results, educate employees, etc.

For More Help:

  • Keep California Beautiful at (916) 924-5667 has videos that highlight how businesses are saving money and reducing trash.
  • CalRecycle Buy Recycled Program, (916) 341-6481.

Publication #500-94-035

To order this publication, or for more Business Waste Reduction Assistance, please contact us! If you have questions, information, ideas, educational materials, etc., please share it with us so we can share it with others!

Last updated: August 17, 2012
Business Resource Efficiency & Waste Reduction, http://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/ReduceWaste/Business/
Business Assistance: BzAssist@calrecycle.ca.gov