We are entering an overdue war on waste. Recent media coverage including last night’s Four Corners episode highlighted that much is broken in our production and consumption model, and how we mismanage discarded resources. For businesses asking for solutions, there are actions they can take, and even opportunities in it.
“Despite the lack of incentives for waste contractors to do the right thing, with the right approach, thousands of dollars can be saved by businesses that divert waste going to landfill,” says Blake Lindley, who heads the waste recovery work of sustainability consultancy Edge Environment. “One of our clients is saving $1.2 million in waste costs per year by increasing their operation’s resource recovery and by monitoring their waste contracts.”
Edge’s experience is that there is almost always low hanging fruit across all sized businesses to avoid and reduce waste, increase resource recovery and do better business.
“Most importantly, businesses can avoid generating waste in the first place. And this is where most opportunities lie,” says Tom Davies, Edge chairman and co-founder. “The concept to follow is that of a Circular Economy,” he adds.
Known also as Industrial Ecology, it is the notion that, as in nature, someone’s output is someone else’s input. Looking at waste and resource as one allows for innovations in design and in how products and services flow in the economy. Analysis by McKinsey for the Ellen MacArthur Foundation estimates that over US$1 trillion a year could be generated by 2025 and 100,000 new jobs created for the next five years if companies focus on encouraging the build-up of circular supply chains to increase the rate of recycling, reuse and remanufacture.
An example of a business that is helping tackle plastic waste with this approach is Australian pallet manufacturer Re>Pal. Their pallets are made of 100 percent plastic waste, developed with a trade secret technology that does not require the plastic to be sorted. “Our estimates indicate that, by taking over two percent of the global pallet market, Re>Pal would use up all the plastic waste currently in the ocean.” Says Jonas Bengtsson, CEO of Edge. Range has been listed in the Australian Securities Exchange since 2016.
In the building sector, thanks to forward-thinking initiatives like the Better Building Partnership, waste that was previously seen as fit only for landfill is being developed into new materials. Collaborating across the waste, demolition and academic sector, their research into waste wood panels from building de-fit has led to the development of a new board product that is being further researched and developed for commercialisation. “These are the products of the future,” says Davies, “and they will soon be in abundant supply.”