What are your waste management programs really achieving?
We all know it’s a good idea to waste less and recycle more, but we don’t often stop to think about what is really being achieved with all of our efforts to divert waste from landfill and increase recovery of materials. Sure, we get a report with figures that tells us the amount we are recycling, but this doesn’t usually tell us the full story about the final outcome for the environmental impact.
What does this number really mean and where does the stuff that we put in the ‘recycling’ bin end up? Many people reasonably assume that when something is recycled, it gets turned back into a similar item and this can be done over and over. It could be described as re-entering the same production cycle… re-cycle. This idea fits with GPT’s objective to divert waste from landfill with a closed-loop approach so that additional resource consumption is minimised.
Too often however, this version of recycling is a long way from the actual outcome. Some of our reported ‘recycling’ takes a high value commodity and turns it into a product of lower value. Some of our reported ‘recycling’ takes products to a one-off reuse or energy recovery. And some of our reported ‘recycling’ takes a product from a bin to end in landfill – not exactly what most people would consider re-cycling.
Many of these ‘not-really-recycling’ processes play a valid role in the current waste management mix. However at GPT, we believe that you should be able to differentiate the outcomes from the different processes to understand what you are really achieving with your waste management programs. You will then be able to make better informed decisions to achieve your ultimate objective.
To assist, GPT has developed, and is implementing, an outcomes-based reporting system that considers the end result for each process, not just the bin in which the waste is input. We have put our own operations under the microscope in a discussion paper, Taking the rubbish out of recycling data in an effort to demonstrate the pitfalls of common waste reporting and the opportunity to improve upon it. By using this method, GPT will be able to understand progress towards our waste management objectives and take the rubbish out of its recycling data.
As the paper concludes, the industry will need to take up the challenge of achieving the best quality outcomes from ‘recycling’, not only the highest rates of ‘recycling’. We hope this may prompt you to consider if you are also really achieving what you hoped with your waste programs or policy settings.