Will Circular Economy and Climate Goals Transform the Waste Industry’s Status Quo?

Historically, business waste management status quo was to landfill; now, organizations are more interested in waste diversion improvements. The pace and scale of ESG reporting trends and zero waste initiatives across organizations, large and small, private and public, have initiated a greater shift toward measurable carbon reductions and landfill diversion efforts. Are these efforts changing the status quo?

Some circular economy efforts getting the most attention include organics processing, enhanced recycling technology and programs, improvements on waste-to-energy equipment, and supply chain materiality reductions. While action, ideals, and actual practices have yet to catch up, it does seem that between new legislation and stakeholder pressure on businesses to transition to a circular economy, the status quo is beginning to shift. These are some of the indicators that a reshaping is taking place, and perhaps a large shift is underway.

Advanced business technology to track supply chains and waste
Transparency of waste tracking has become a hallmark for sustainability, and businesses are adopting technologies to help track waste in their supply chain and work to reduce it. Key sustainability metrics like carbon and waste are being tracked with advanced software. Blockchain technologies are being developed for both business and municipal usage to keep a digital, immutable record of waste and recycling.

Microsoft has officially launched its cloud technology, the Microsoft Sustainability Manager, for businesses to record, reduce, and report their environmental efforts, from carbon reductions to water conservation and waste/recycling initiatives. Microsoft aims to be a top cloud tech provider in the growing software and services market for businesses looking to improve their waste reduction efforts. This clarity that businesses, especially industrial, commercial, and manufacturers, are looking to develop around their waste can be expected to have an impact collectively and over time on what the waste industry looks like over the next decade.

More companies are pledging to lower carbon emissions than ever before
“A roughly 15-20% reduction in emissions can be achieved through zero-waste strategies.” – Eunomia

Both publicly traded and private companies are opening sustainability positions and making pledges to reduce carbon emissions. 38% of the Fortune Global 500 companies have made a significant 2030 target on carbon emission reductions, and part of these reductions include tactics for waste diversion.

San Francisco Airport became the first airport in the world to go “Zero Waste,” and increasingly, as more test cases become available, more companies are using these models to follow suit. There are various reasons for these efforts, pleasing investors and customers, SEC reporting regulations, and building resiliency. No matter the reason, there’s an uptick in how companies tackle their carbon emissions. They are increasingly relating those metrics to waste reduction efforts, contributing to an overall shift in the industry status quo.


Waste haulers have pledged to reduce scope emissions
Waste haulers across the country have made pledges to reduce their Scope 1 and Scope 2 carbon emissions. Publicly traded companies will be required to report their scope emissions. This could be to create a competitive edge amongst current waste operators as business demand for waste reduction services continues to grow.

There are various efforts in the works, from fleet electrification and biogas to increased recovery rates for cardboard, metals, plastics, organics, paper, biogas, and oil. Organics management is also an increasingly offered service by way of the push from California’s SB 1383 law.

While reporting and accuracy will be essential to hone, the pledges are steps toward acknowledging more responsible waste handling and landfill diversion efforts.


Global recycling services market growth
Globally, the market size for recycling services is expected to nearly double within the next decade. Job growth is also an incentive for these transitions to global recycling service growth, as it’s estimated that 45 million waste management jobs could be created by 2030 in a circular economy scenario, according to the International Labour Association.


C40 Cities supporting businesses for waste reduction
“When approached holistically, waste and sustainable materials management can help cities reduce 15-20% of their emissions through reduction, avoidance, recycling, treatment and offsetting.” – C40 Cities

C40 is a growing network of leading cities that collaborate to deliver climate action through agendas, programs, and grants. Municipalities are launching programs dedicated to supporting local businesses toward Zero Waste. The city of Los Angeles is proposing a grant program aimed at helping local businesses transition to zero waste. San Francisco launched the “ReThink Disposable” campaign with grant money to educate and support large businesses on switching to reusable food ware and reducing food waste. Read more about C40 cities here.


Organics-focused companies are flourishing
What was once a primarily in-house effort, composting programs have now grown by 65% in the last five years. With the increased demand comes increased services and local companies supplying this demand. Various compost collecting and drop-off services are popping up around the country, and these companies specialize in composting and solid waste reduction while municipalities are incentivizing businesses. Composting companies are a growing trend as organic waste efforts increase across the business sector. In the wake of waste diversion efforts, compost-dedicated companies like WasteNot Compost in Chicago are emerging to fill the sustainability gap for residents and businesses.


Recycling grants
While one program or grant likely won’t move the needle on its own, there is numerous recycling legislation in the works now, some containing project funding. One such funding source is expected from The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, also referred to as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Authorized by the Save Our Seas 2.0 Act, $275 million will be dedicated to Solid Waste Infrastructure for Recycling grants. The program supports improvements to recycling programs and assists local waste management authorities in making improvements to local waste management systems.


Waste education efforts on the rise
Business investment in employee education is on the rise. Companies like Intuit, Allstate, and Google have all developed waste education for employees to improve the adoption of waste reduction initiatives. Additionally, government funding for waste education programs is increasing. Studies have shown that technology alone is not enough for improved recycling rates; a systemic approach that includes educational methods is necessary for the public and private sectors, government, schools, and NGOs (non-governmental organizations).

There is currently a request for information (RFI) out by the EPA targeting effective strategies to reach consumers with waste and recycling education. Organizations are gearing up to execute these educational strategies and improve waste knowledge and thus practices. We expect more education to build on these initial efforts and contribute to the industry’s reshaping.


National Waste Associates helps clients shift their waste status quo
The team of experts at National Waste Associates helps our clients build successful Climate and Circular Economy initiatives. We help you shift the waste industry status quo, and unlike the big haulers, we don’t own any landfills. Our agenda is to leverage optimal strategies and create the best recycling programs and waste diversion strategies across your facilities. Our experts are always ready to conduct a waste audit for you and help streamline your waste diversion practices whether it be to reduce carbon or your waste bills. Your company’s waste future requires a team that is on your side and dedicated to getting you the best plans and prices to serve your company for the long haul.

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