The waste management-recycling industry is in a critical state. With the recycling market shrinking, the need for recyclables is limited and product standards are higher. Hence the introduction of contamination fees. While these are not new charges you’ll likely see them being issued more frequently and at a higher cost than you're used to. As the need for a cleaner stream becomes clear, haulers need to take steps to ensure the products they receive are usable.
The Good Old Days
Recycling used to be a much simpler process for all. Goods were tossed into their designated containers, cardboard, glass, plastic, etc. With limited effort and sound industry, recycling just made sense. But when China, the largest buyer of recycled goods, began imposing a strict, if not impossible contamination percentage, the market took a hit. Additionally, they banned four distinct categories and 24 types of previously accepted recycled goods. The impact has had a trickle-down effect on brokers, waste haulers and you, the customer.
How this Affects Waste Haulers:
- Growing need to obtain a clean product
- Increased loads to landfills
- Limited space & rising costs at landfills
Growing Fees and Penalties
The stricter regulations on acceptable products mean fewer waste items are accepted. Improper mixing of items makes them unable to be properly recycled. Contamination of the materials comes at a cost to the hauler, then YOU, in what is referred to as, contamination fees. Contamination fees are just one way haulers are offsetting the charges they incur at landfills, to customers.
How these fees are enforced, increasingly controversial, is at the local level and varies among waste haulers. Fees can be based on a number of occurrences or even by individual instance. Costs vary and while they may seem minimal by site, collectively these fees could be budget impacting. For those companies reaching maximum fines, again set locally, haulers have even threatened the removal of recycling carts altogether and even suspending services for up to one year.
Identifying and Avoiding Contamination Fees
With many cities still pushing for recycling mandates, it’s more important than ever to gain a better understanding of requirements and regulations around your organizations waste and recycling. City mandates are being established but, not all are clearly informing waste customers of new guidelines for recycling processes? If more cities are simply following suit and not adjusting processing issues, it’s likely to lead to flawed mandates and wasted time and money for your organization.
What You Can Do:
- Educate employees and building tenants on proper recycling practices.
- Audit your waste invoices regularly to catch fees and ensure proper billing.
- Outsource your waste & recycling to a waste managed service provider. They have the expertise and data insights to ensure your efforts and costs are optimized.
Stay in the Know
For cities with a mandate in place, your organization may want to start with an aggressive education program. This can be shared through new move-in information, newsletters and social media. Sharing ideas and best practices for keeping recycling clean can help to ensure your recyclable waste makes it to its proper landing place and you avoid additional fees.
Make your recycling program scalable to keep up with what’s going into them. Allow site personnel a chance to closer manage containers, making it easier to remove contaminants from fewer containers across multiple sites or large areas.
IF you must make a choice, try cardboard. While the overall number of recycled materials exported fell in 2018, cardboard or OCC had one of the best years on record. In areas where recycling is mandatory, but not specified, offering certain types of recycling could be the smarter approach.
Outsource to a Waste & Recycling MSP
Waste expense management is typically managed by the organization itself, entrusted to a broker or more efficiently outsourced to a waste managed service provider (MSP). These dedicated resources work alongside your teams supporting financial and operational objectives. They have the expertise, vendor relationships and data insights that ensure you are operating at peak performance. Services and solutions vary but are typically scalable across the organization’s sites.
As with any market shift, costs will likely be offset by the addition of fees and penalty costs. Waste hauler bills will continue to be no exception. Waste MSP’s collect and audit invoices to ensure proper billing and payment. Data insights are captured and analyzed to help companies measure performance and find areas where improvement is needed. Organizations with multiple sites would be wise to consider outsourcing their waste & recycling, centralizing the process and liberating resources.
In a Complex Environment, We are Seeing Positives
Finally, we are having a national conversation about recycling and changes to improve the system. Environmentalists, lawmakers, educators, and consumers are taking an interest in how they can make a difference. Across the board, folks are finding ways to reduce and reuse the waste in sound ways that make both economic and financial sense.
Waste technology is a thing. Innovation continues to be an industry objective aimed at Eco and economic improvement. Haulers are investing in new tech to speed up the separation process and produce a cleaner product as reported in the industry publication, Waste 360.
Such efforts lead us to believe that over the long-term, the recycling market will eventually bounce back. And while the industry is experiencing volatility, and contradictions occur in the news daily, most experts agree we’ll eventually see an upturn thanks to technology, environmentalists and research data. A more eco-conscious consumer has been created and we anticipate a future recycling model that is both cost-efficient and sustainable to necessitate. Meanwhile, consumers will need to remain in the know of regulatory mandates, hauler requirements and how they can optimize organizational processes and services. As a waste customer, your best bet will be to continue the evaluation and optimization of financial and operational activities as they relate to your organizations waste and recycling.
Contact Cass Waste Expense Management today to learn how to get control of your waste expenses and avoid the impact of rising costs through proactive, closed loop procure-to-pay managed services.