Successful Recycle Programs Need More Than Lofty Goals

Successful Recycle Programs Need More Than Lofty Goals

by Amy Bond, Sustainability Program Manager - CBRE US

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Wednesday, September 30, 2015 - 2:35pm

CAMPAIGN: CBRE Environmental Sustainability


More than 350 sustainability professionals gathered in Chicago, IL the week before last to share best practice solutions for waste diversion at the inaugural Waste360 Recycling Summit. Thought leaders from Fortune 500 companies as well as waste industry experts discussed developments in commercial composting, the costs of recycling, and the difficulties of data analysis in what is currently an extremely disparate system of reporting and standards.
Sponsored by the National Waste & Recycling Association, even event coordinators were impressed with the attendance. Trash, it would seem, is having its moment in the limelight. Even more striking than the broad array of learning sessions and caliber of presenters was the shift in the underlying current of conversation. There was very little “soft talk” about general environmental and corporate responsibility goals. Instead the common theme was sustainability operational compliance. This is a relatively new concept that’s framing waste diversion, and other conservation measures, as the norm for sound business practice rather than aspirational environmentalism.
One presenter of special note for the commercial real estate industry was The Environmental Research & Education Foundation. They conduct scientific research and educational initiatives for waste management practices that benefit industry participants and the communities they serve. Current estimates of municipal solid waste generation, recovery and disposal in the U.S. vary greatly. EREF has used a facility-based approach to investigate the amount of MSW materials generated and the portion managed through landfill, waste-to-energy, composting, recycling and anaerobic digestion facilities. More than 3,500 recycling facilities were identified and surveyed, representing the most comprehensive effort to date examining the U.S. recycling rate and material stream composition.
This analysis examines the waste management sustainability policies set by state and local agencies, such as recycling and diversion goals. The research explores the intent, structure, and language used in the policies in an effort to better understand the way recycling and diversion are defined from a policy perspective. 
Of interest to the commercial real estate industry, a framework was developed to facilitate comparison and highlight ways in which goals can be based on measurable metrics. Though the study was restricted to municipality impact, businesses would do well to follow this lead. Setting goals without repeatable means of benchmarking and measurement is about as useful as declaring you’re going to run a marathon without setting a training schedule. You might make it to the race, but you’re not prepared to win.
CATEGORY: Environment