Waste management plan

Demystifying a waste management plan

The words “waste management plan” invariably conjure up an image of a thick document and a lot of cost. But it doesn’t have to be. At its simplest a waste management plan is something a homeowner can create on the back of a serviette while watching TV.

Waste management plans have developed an image of being lengthy, complex, technical and imposing. And some of them are. At industry level waste management plans need to comply with legislation from all three tiers of government. Understandably, they have to be compiled by experts, often consultants and involve a number of stakeholders. These are the thick documents which cost the big bucks.

A waste management plan is something a homeowner can create on the back of a serviette while watching TV

At a less formal level, however, a waste management plan can still be very effective. What are they and why should we care? Generally small businesses and households plan their operations; when to order stock or buy groceries, when to upgrade equipment or redecorate.

When it comes to waste however those rules don’t apply anymore. Put it in a wheelie bin or throw it out the window and it suddenly becomes someone else’s problem. This despite the fact that we can see the result of discarded waste on the streets and beaches. Waste which we have had a hand in generating.

Producing a waste management plan, therefore, is a sign of accepting responsibility for one’s waste. And it does not need to be difficult. Households are possibly the simplest although they still produce more waste than most people realize. As a starting point all waste should go into a container and taken to landfill. This is preferable to leaving items on the sidewalk for collection or emptying paint thinners down the drain.

Producing a waste management plan is a sign of accepting responsibility for one’s waste

A domestic plan can be improved upon by removing recyclables, cardboard, paper, plastic, glass and tin and ensuring that they are recycled. It will be further improved by removing the hazardous items including batteries, fluorescent globes and chemicals and depositing these at a drop-off point. Garden refuse can also be composted or dropped at a drop-off point. None of this requires much more than a few containers, limited time and some organization. In a family environment it can be a useful learning and bonding exercise.

Small businesses require a more formal approach. A good starting point is to identify the waste streams being generated by the business. Very often it is the packaging the product comes in or metal shavings from engineering processes. Instead of placing them in a single container they can be separated at source and placed in separate containers. The containers can be drums, boxes, bags or the items can just be left in a pile.

The important thing is that by separating the materials one is identifying them and disposing of them becomes easier. Thereafter the waste generator can call in one or more recyclers to remove and – depending on the volumes – pay for the recyclables. General waste will still need to be sent to landfill, but it will be a smaller load and cost less.

As an example a typical small motor vehicle workshop could map out its waste management plan as follows:

Engine and gear box oils In separate steel drums Oil recycler will collect
Used steel parts In steel drums Scrap dealer will collect
Used oil rags In plastic bags Send to landfill
Boxes and plastic wrapping In bulk bags Recycler will collect
Tins In bulk bags Recycler will collect
General waste Wheelie bins Municipality will collect

Once drawn up communicate the plan to staff members and ensure that the different materials are stored in the correct containers. And then call upon one or more recyclers to collect the materials. If the volumes are sufficient one recycler will take all the materials and if not smaller operators will collect. A word of warning – not all are reliable.

The benefits of introducing a waste management plan are that one is reducing the volume of waste that one sends to landfill and recycling more material. There will be a reduction in cost of general waste removal which will partially compensate for the extra time involved in implementing and monitoring the plan. More importantly, one is taking the initiative in reducing the amount of waste, something which customers notice and appreciate.

Larger organizations will require a more formal plan. Most industries today have an industry association which can provide advice, consultants will and specialist recyclers can assist. It is a once off exercise which requires an occasional review but once implemented the rewards are tangible and satisfying.

Instead of waiting for government to enact more legislation in an effort to force us to clean up our environment we can take the initiative ourselves. A simple waste management plan is a good place to start.

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