Recycling and waste management innovation

In recycling, innovation trumps disruption

The term “disruptor” will very soon displace “passion” as the most overused term in business today. We all know what it means to be passionate about our businesses – boring. Now we aspire to be disruptors. “Disrupt before you are disrupted” is the call. At Smart Waste we are so busy innovating in recycling that we don’t have time to be disruptors.

Which is not to say we are clever or have all the answers. What we get right, however, is to listen to our clients and try to solve their waste management problems. There are as many problems in recycling as there are different clients which is why the waste management and recycling game is so interesting. We are never bored.

A large portion of waste management companies offer a standard package based service – they collect your trash on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday. This is fine if all you want is for your trash to be collected. If your business is a manufacturing operation with many moving parts and a number of processes you probably need more. I often hear this story when speaking to clients.

Off the shelf recycling and waste management packages simply don’t work, not one-size-fits-all

For example, the client has manufacturing operations spread across 6 factories dotted around more than one industrial area. Each factory produces different parts using different materials, resulting in different types of waste. When the parts are finished the client brings them together and assembles them into the final product, with even more different recyclable waste.

We now have traffic issues, different materials spread across locations and no records being kept. But the client wants a comprehensive waste management report for its auditors and financials, the waste management package solution simply does not fit.

A transport company which undertakes recycling on the side usually doesn’t have the skills to cope with this situation. Smart Waste specializes in it. The answer is not in a package – do not think that buying a software program will be the answer. Most buyers live to regret the cost of that decision, especially when the consulting fees bill arrives.

Innovating and building unique waste management and recycling solutions is what we do

The answer is bespoke, requiring someone with a certain skill set. Someone who is able to connect the processes with the collections and manpower and report it to the client in an accurate and meaningful way. This is where Smart Waste is innovative.

As always in South Africa we do things differently, which includes our waste management. In Europe a single driver collects, weighs and reports on the type of waste or recyclables. This is an automated system which works very well for them. It will not work in SA for a number of reasons.

In South Africa things are more fluid and constantly changing. We are a developing country and our waste management laws and practices are also developing. The laws are good, it is the implementation which is lacking. We are constantly innovating to keep ahead of waste management best practices. Having a clean canvas to work on makes it easier to be more efficient.

Food waste is the latest example in our client base. There is legislation in place to prevent organic (food) waste from being disposed of at landfill from 2022. The municipalities are not in a position to compost this waste. Herein lies the opportunity for private companies to take up the baton.

Smart Waste has already pioneered the types of vehicles required for the collection, the containers to prevent spills and smells and the disposal of organic food waste. Most importantly we have worked out a way of making this pay.

How can your organic waste pay? It’s simple really, through innovation, not disruption, yet

Cost effectiveness is the biggest challenge for all businesses in these economic times. We have worked out a way of spreading manpower over more than one site, provided the distances are not too great. This allows us to provide waste management and recycling services at less cost than having a permanent employee on site.

Finding alternate uses for materials and once-off stock disposals is something Smart Waste specializes in. We have found solutions for expensive chocolates, 40 tons of frozen meat, shoes and 10 tons of yoghurt, to name a few of the unusual requests. We can also sell off job lots either through a trading platform or by advertising. There is usually an answer other than landfill.

At some stage no doubt, recycling in SA will be established and passe. The industry will be mature with a limited number of big players entrenched. That will be the time for the disruptors to come in and shake up the market. That time is still a long way away. Until then at Smart Waste we are happy to be waste management innovators.

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