5 Key Metrics to Help Your Company Recycle More
20 January 2022
These days, running a sustainable business does more than protect the environment. It can boost both your company’s bottom line and your brand reputation.
True sustainability begins with using resources responsibly, minimising waste and optimising recycling processes. But while you carefully manage your materials, you need to do so without wasting those other valuable resources: time and money.
To understand your company’s waste management and make strategic decisions for its future, ask yourself these questions:
- How is our waste management right now?
- Where could we improve our waste management processes?
- What are our recycling goals?
- How can we achieve our goals more efficiently?
The answers to these queries lie in five important metrics. Tracking these numbers gives you powerful insights to optimise your waste management for the benefit of people, planet and profit. Read on to discover what those metrics are and how to use them.
1. Recycling Rate (Percentage)
Begin your effective waste management by tracking the percentage of total waste created that gets recycled. Known as your recycling rate, it gives you a direct comparison between waste recovered and waste disposed of.
To get an accurate reading, you should exclude construction rubble from this figure. Most industries produce irregular yet large quantities which will distort the result. Be sure to separate the recycling rate from the recovery rate. The recovery rate includes waste repurposed as a source of energy.
Most industries have room to improve their recycling rate. In 2018, the German Federal Environment Agency reported a recycling rate of 70% of total waste volume in Germany. However, for the ‘other waste’ category – including manufacturing and commerce waste – that figure dropped to 47%.
To an extent, your company’s recycling rate depends on your industry and product category. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do. There are two ways to increase your recycling rate. Firstly, by recovering more waste: recycling and reusing materials you used to throw away. Secondly, by reducing the total amount of waste produced.
Both approaches need you to look at the types of waste you’re creating. By reviewing waste according to type and quantity, you can spot the worst offending waste fractions and tackle them in order. Having this deeper data set empowers you to make the necessary adjustments to your processes and policies.
2. Waste Prevention (Percentage)
This figure reveals the percentage of waste diverted from the incinerator to get recycled or repurposed.
A lot of waste is still burned, especially in the commercial sector. Statistics from Environmental Action Germany (Deutsche Umwelthilfe – DUH) show that more than 90% of mixed commercial waste ends up in incineration plants. This often accompanies violations of the waste separation obligations under the Commercial Waste Ordinance. According to the DUH, upholding these obligations would save up to 1.4 million tonnes of mixed commercial waste from incineration. Recycling this waste instead would reduce CO2 emissions by up to 2.9 million tonnes per year.
As you make sustainable changes, it's important to look at this metric in context. For example, if you decrease your total waste output, your incineration percentage may increase in the short term if you reduced recyclable waste more than non-recyclable waste. With that caveat in mind, the metric forms a vital part of a consistent waste strategy, acting as a strong motivator to increase recycling.
To manage sorting and recycling costs and keep waste to a minimum, you should sort waste before it’s collected. As well as being cost-effective, this protects your company from an economic and legal standpoint.
With Resourcify, this process is simple. Our software helps you manage limitless types of waste. You can allocate disposal routes and the relevant service providers to automate communication and pickups. Finally, your custom dashboard tracks key metrics including waste prevention, allowing you to set recycling goals and track your progress.
3. CO2 Emission Reduction (Percentage)
Measuring your CO2 emission reduction is the most tangible way to understand the impact of your waste management and recycling efforts. This makes it particularly useful for sharing with employees, customers and other stakeholders. The figure is also invaluable for setting and meeting benchmarks, both those set internally and those required by law. Finally, thanks to its tangible nature, analysing CO2 emissions is a major motivator, encouraging the adoption of new recycling processes.
4. Revenue From Recyclable Materials (Monetary Value, e.g., EUR, GBP, USD)
This metric is of particular interest if your organisation currently underestimates the value of recyclable waste.
“Materials your organisation generates as waste may be valuable resources for other businesses. Once you have a detailed breakdown of your waste by material, identify potential buyers for each category,” recommends the Germany Federal Environment Agency.
The revenue you earn from your waste material can cover the cost of the waste management process. Income from high-value recyclable materials can offset the — often high — cost of disposing of non-recyclable materials such as hazardous waste and dangerous goods.
5. Reducing Waste Disposal Costs (Percentage)
With the above metrics in place to guide new processes and policies, you can track positive changes to your waste disposal expenditure.
The primary way to make savings on waste disposal is through increased efficiency. For example, digitising the process allows for better oversight and control which can instantly improve your bottom line.
How to Address Challenges in the Recycling Process
As with all metrics, these figures are only useful if they come from detailed and accurate data. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. In practice, waste management is complex. There are so many waste fractions, hazard ratings and service providers in the mix. Digitising the process solves the problem. Data is collected automatically, promising unparalleled detail and accuracy. That’s why digitisation is essential to the future of effective waste management.