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Get Smart with WasteWise

This free program will help improve your diversion rates

By Jennie Morton

This free program will help improve your diversion rates.

Do you know how many tons of garbage and recyclables your facility produces in a given month?

Unless it’s overflowing, trash is probably the last thing on your mind. But if you’re not actively overseeing waste management, you’re missing some of the most basic opportunities to green your operations.

Don’t have enough time or resources? WasteWise is a free program offered by the EPA that helps facility managers strengthen their waste handling practices. Learn how this reporting tool will help track your waste reduction and recycling efforts.

Verify Your Success

WasteWise offers several tools and conversion factors that calculate your amount of waste reduced and associated cost savings, which can result from avoided waste removal costs, avoided purchasing costs, and increased operational efficiency.

Volume-to-Weight Conversion Factors – a comprehensive list of conversion factors for commonly collected materials.

Calculating Amount Reduced – measurement approaches for waste reduction activities that include packaging reduction, office paper reduction, office equipment and supply reuse and donation, and toner cartridge remanufacturing.

Estimating Waste Removal Costs – a worksheet to evaluate your organization’s waste removal costs and develop a baseline for future cost comparisons.

Converting Waste Reduction Results into Cost Savings – a guide to help you quantify cost savings from your waste reduction program.

Curb Your Trash Levels
To improve your diversion rates, you need to know the exact volume of waste your facility generates. This can be complicated, however, because invoices from haulers aren’t standardized like utility bills. This can make it difficult to gauge the effectiveness of your practices.

“Waste management often isn’t tracked because facility managers don’t have good collection data,” explains Ron Vance, chief of the Materials Conservation and Recovery Branch within the EPA’s Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery. “For example, waste hauling may be based on days of pickup rather than tonnage, which leaves FMs in the dark about their performance.”

Strong programs need to be actively managed and a tool like WasteWise simplifies the process.

“We’re the waste equivalent to the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager. Every building starts in a different place, so we work one-on-one with our partners to figure out where they are and help them tailor a program that will work with their specific situation,” says Vance. “Building managers can develop an understanding of contracts, their current practices, pay rates, and fee structures.”

New participants strive to increase waste diversion in the first year by at least 5% over their baseline. This can be achieved by a combination of waste reduction, recycling, and composting. Once this preliminary benchmark is reached, participants set a self-directed goal to improve over the previous year’s performance.

All data is submitted into an online data management system and can be compiled on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, or yearly basis. The reporting tool monitors all waste-related activities, including generation, prevention, recycling, composting, and purchasing products with recycled content.

Particularly if you haven’t been keeping a close eye on your waste numbers, turn to these records for relevant data:

  • Purchasing, inventory, maintenance, and operating logs
  • Supply, equipment, and raw material invoices
  • Waste hauling and disposal records and contracts
  • Contracts with recycling facilities and earned revenues from recycling
  • Employee hours dedicated to waste management and hourly rates
  • Results from a formal waste audit or an informal facility walkthrough

Once you enter in your information, the program will establish your current baseline so you know precisely how many tons you need to divert to reach your initial 5% reduction goal.

“It also creates instant reports on program performance and trends, calculates GHG emission reductions associated with your activities, and generates an official EPA Climate Profile report,” states the program guide.

As an incentive to go above and beyond minimal goals, WasteWise also includes an annual award program that highlights best practices and notable achievements, notes Vance. These include improvement in waste diversion by 20% and 40% and waste prevention by 40%.

Overflowing with Benefits
Effectively managing your waste stream has numerous benefits, from attracting tenants and earning certification points to lowering your operating costs.

“A better understanding and optimization of waste management can generate significant savings,” Vance emphasizes. “Any material you divert from dumpsters reduces your disposal fees. You might also uncover opportunities for new revenue streams.”