Reflection and preparation. Those are typically the top actions that sum up most organizations’ activities around the end of the year. During this critical time, you may be working toward wrapping up key initiatives, tracking progress against yearly goals or outlining a new strategy for the next fiscal year. As you map out this path or set new year’s resolutions, be sure to keep several trending concepts in the waste management industry in mind for your operations.
Before closing the chapter on 2023, let’s look at the top waste management terms from this year that you’ll need to know in 2024.
Definition: A circular economy keeps materials, products and services in circulation for as long as possible (source: Environmental Protection Agency).
Why it’s important: Within the waste stream, the concept of circularity enables us to broaden how we view the end lifecycle of waste. Instead of automatically diverting waste to a landfill, in a circular economy certain products or materials can be recycled, reused, repurposed, refurbished or resold after they’re disposed of. This framework applies to a wide variety of waste, including electronic and food waste, and will minimize your environmental impact in a major way.
Definition: Organic waste is any material that comes from a plant or animal and will eventually decompose. Things like food scraps, tree branches, leaves, lawn clippings and other yard trimmings are all considered organic waste and can take on a new purpose or use in the environmental ecosystem when disposed of through organics recycling or composting programs.
Why it’s important: When disposed of properly, organic waste can be reused or repurposed through composting to create new soil or mulch to then regrow healthy plants or vegetables, while simultaneously reducing dependence on fertilizers. Organic waste can also create new energy and power sources when donated food scraps are used to produce biofuels that generate electricity and renewable energy. Implementing a proper organics recycling program within your waste management infrastructure is a strategy that will eventually pay dividends in the long run and will produce both economic and environmental benefits. It’s also a disposal method that has gained traction across the United States in recent years and may soon become a requirement for most businesses and organizations.
Definition: Landfill gas is a natural byproduct of the decomposition of organic material in landfills (source: Environmental Protection Agency).
Why it’s important: Per the EPA, landfill gas is composed of roughly 50 percent methane, a greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere and remains a focal point in global conversations surrounding climate change. The waste management industry is seeing increased attention on emissions reduction through alternative disposal outlets/methods like organics recycling and striving for zero-waste (e.g., sustainably diverting as much waste as possible away from the landfill).
Definition: A semiconductor diode that emits light when a voltage is applied to it and is used in electronic devices (source: Merriam-Webster).
Why it’s important: Let’s break this down a bit, as “LED” is a term you’ll be hearing more and more. Put simply, LED lighting products produce light in a more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly way than standard fluorescent and incandescent lighting. LED lighting products have already become commonplace, especially in workplaces and brick-and-mortar environments, but soon they will be the standard. In August, new energy rules went into effect that restrict the purchase of most incandescent lightbulbs in favor of LED products. As you convert to LED lighting, just be sure to recycle the old bulbs or ballasts to give the old fixtures a new use through parts disbursement or refurbishment (i.e., the circular economy). Recycling your old bulbs and fixtures will also keep harmful materials such as lead, cadmium, nickel and silver out of the landfill.
Definition: The acronym for “environmental, social and governance,” which, broadly, encompasses an organization’s commitments to sustainable business practices and is typically targeted toward investors and other stakeholders.
Why it’s important: Consumers are demanding sustainable business practices because they’re critical to the environment we live in. From companies they do business with to the things they purchase to the products they use in their homes, consumers want to support companies that not only vocalize their sustainable business practices, but act on them, too. In the waste management industry, it’s no different. Think strategically about a sustainability-focused solid waste program that reduces your environmental impact, carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions. A balanced and realistic program with short- and long-term “green goals” will avoid wasting resources of all kinds, including financial and human time and attention.
Definition: The internet of things (IoT) is a network of interrelated devices, typically embedded with technology such as sensors and software, that connect and exchange data with other IoT devices and the cloud (TechTarget).
Why it’s important: Operating in an increasingly tech-enabled world has allowed organizations to streamline waste and recycling spend and efficiencies in new ways through improved data collection and transparency. Implementing a web-based tracking and monitoring system through IoT technology and devices like Waste Harmonics’ iWaste and OnePlus Fullness Compactor Monitor, will track, monitor and optimize your company’s waste and recycling processes. Leveraging this data not only helps maximize time and resources, but also enables significant environmental benefits.
New terms are destined to emerge in the months ahead. In the interim, reach out to our team to stay ahead of the trends and learn how to apply these concepts to your organization’s waste and recycling operations in the new year.