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Best Practices for WasteWise Participants

With the following sample tips, approaches, guidelines and activities, your organization will be utilizing WasteWise to its fullest potential in no time.

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Best Practices for Conducting a Waste Assessment

Conducting a waste assessment is a great way for WasteWise partners to evaluate the effectiveness of their current waste management system, and insure they are utilizing the best waste management practices for their organization.

A waste assessment:

  • Identifies waste generated at your facility and purchasing and management practices.
  • Examines current waste reduction practices and assesses their effectiveness.
  • Identifies the areas and materials in which waste reduction efforts will be most effective.

Records examinations, facility walk-throughs and waste sorts are three common approaches to conducting a waste assessment. Your assessment might require just one of these activities or a combination of approaches. Determine which assessment is best for your organization based on factors such as facility type and size, complexity of the waste stream, resources (money, time, labor, equipment) available to implement the waste reduction program, and scope of your waste reduction program.

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Records Examination

Examining records can provide insight into your organization's waste generation and removal patterns. The types of records you might find useful include:

  • Purchasing, inventory, maintenance and operating logs.
  • Supply, equipment and raw material invoices.
  • Waste hauling and disposal records and contracts.
  • Contracts with recycling facilities and earned revenues from recycling.

The Records Examination Worksheet (Excel)(1 pg, 313 K) and How to Conduct a Records Examination Guide will help document background information regarding your organization's current waste collection and removal practices. Use the tables and formulas to estimate your organization's annual waste generation and the costs of collecting and removing it for disposal, regardless of whether your organization is charged for the waste removal by weight, volume or through a flat fee. In this way, your organization can compile important baseline data against which potential waste reduction options can be measured.

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Facility Walk-Throughs

A facility walk-through involves touring your organization's facility, observing different function areas or departments' activities and talking with employees and managers about waste-producing activities and equipment. A walk-through is a relatively quick way to examine an organization's waste-generating practices. Specifically, a walk-through will enable you to:

  • Observe the types and relative amounts of waste produced.
  • Identify waste-producing activities and equipment.
  • Detect inefficiencies in operations or in the way waste moves through the organization.
  • Observe the layout and operations of various departments.
  • Assess existing space and equipment that can be used for storage, processing recyclables and other activities.
  • Assess current waste reduction efforts.
  • Collect additional information through interviews with supervisors and employees.

Use the Facility Walk-Through Worksheet (Excel)(1 pg, 68 K) and How to Conduct a Facility Walk-Through guide to record the types of wastes produced, estimated quantities of waste generated, the source of the wastes and any current waste reduction efforts. In addition, identify all materials that could be targeted by your waste reduction program and brainstorm ways to reduce, reuse or recycle these products or materials. Make sure to indicate units of waste observed (i.e., pounds, tons), identify the time period for which you are capturing data and determine how many of those time periods there are in a year.

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Waste Sort

A waste sort involves the physical collection, sorting and weighing of a representative sample of your organization's waste. The goal of a waste sort is to identify each waste component and calculate its percentage of your organization's total waste generation. Waste sorts can focus on an entire organization's waste stream or target specific functional areas.

Some organizations choose to assemble and measure one day's worth of waste. Others choose to assemble a portion of the waste from each department for measuring. However you choose to structure the waste sort, consider whether waste generation varies significantly enough from one day to the next to distort results. Multi-day sampling provides a more accurate representation of your organization's waste generation.

Participants will also need to determine which waste categories to quantify. Typically, the major components of an organization's waste stream include paper, plastic, glass, metal and organic material such as yard trimmings and food scraps. If possible, separate and measure the waste sample completely. These measurements will be useful when determining which materials can be exchanged, reused, sold or recycled.

The Waste Sort Worksheet (Excel)(1 pg, 60 K) and How to Conduct a Waste Sort guide provides a detailed profile of the amounts and types of waste and recyclables generated at your facility. The step-by step instructions provide information on sorting, weighing and recording data on the waste your organization generates.

The below table examines what organizations can gain from performing records examinations, facility walk-throughs and waste sorts, as well as the limitations of these practices.

Waste Assessment Strengths Limitations
Records Examination
  • Provides weights or volumes of waste generated.
  • Tracks major potential waste from the point of origin.
  • Identifies the most expensive or valuable components of an organization's waste.
  • Documents financial benefits of reuse and recycling including total revenues and avoided disposal costs.
  • Requires less time and effort than other approaches.
  • Might not provide quantitative data about specific waste components.
  • Does not provide qualitative data on how or why wastes are generated.
  • Might require substantial effort to collect and analyze data.
Facility Walk-Throughs
  • Requires less time and effort than waste sorts
  • Allows first-hand examination of facility operations
  • Provides qualitative information about major waste components and waste-generating processes
  • Reveals waste reduction opportunities
  • Might not identify all wastes generated
  • Might not be representative if only conducted once
  • Relies on estimates of waste generation
Waste Sort
  • Provides quantitative data on total waste generation and specific waste components.
  • Requires more time and effort than other approaches.
  • Might not be representative if only conducted once.
  • Does not provide qualitative data on how or why wastes are generated.

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Tips for Reaching Your Waste Reduction Goals

Waste prevention offers the greatest environmental benefits and provides substantial cost savings to organizations. WasteWise partners commit to establishing waste reduction goals in four areas:

  • Reducing Waste
  • Reusing Materials
  • Donating/Exchanging Materials
  • Recycling

Reducing Waste

Businesses can often modify their current practices to reduce the amounts of waste generated by changing the design, manufacture, purchase, or use of materials or products. Sample goals set by WasteWise partners in this area include:

  • Reducing office paper waste by implementing a formal policy to duplex all draft reports, and by making training manuals and personnel information available electronically.
  • Improving product design to use less materials.
  • Redesigning packaging to eliminate excess material while maintaining strength.
  • Working with customers to design and implement a packaging return program.
  • Switching to reusable transport containers.
  • Purchasing products in bulk.

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Reusing Materials

The reuse of products and packaging prolongs the useful life of these materials, and delays final disposal or recycling. Reuse is the repair, refurbishing, washing or just simple recovery of worn or used products, appliances, furniture and building materials for internal reuse. Sample goals set by WasteWise partners in this area include:

  • Reusing corrugated moving boxes internally.
  • Reusing office furniture and supplies, such as interoffice envelopes and file folders.
  • Using durable towels, tablecloths, napkins, dishes, cups and glasses.
  • Using incoming packaging materials for outgoing shipments.

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Donating/Exchanging Materials

Organizations can donate products or materials to charities or nonprofits, or exchange materials through a commercial materials exchange. Sample goals set by WasteWise partners in this area include:

  • Donating unwanted supplies to local schools or nonprofit organizations.
  • Donating cafeteria food scraps for use as animal feed.
  • Advertising surplus and reusable items through a commercial materials exchange.
  • Donating excess building materials to local low-income housing developers.

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WasteWise partners also commit to initiating, expanding or improving programs to collect recyclables. In some cases, companies add new materials to an existing program or increase program efficiency through employee education. Sample initiatives include:

  • Eliminating paper waste by expanding the recycling program to include all types of paper.
  • Installing built-in recycling centers and receptacles.
  • Formally tracking and evaluating internal recycling activities and expanding collection by one to two materials each year. Potential materials include corrugated cardboard, coated paper, polystyrene, vinyl and glass.
  • Investigating external markets for recyclables and expanding collection to include new, marketable materials.

State and local laws, markets and infrastructure typically dictate materials included in recycling programs. If you choose to start a recycling program, you should know the quantity and composition of your waste stream and learn about the markets for the different types of recyclable materials in that waste stream. You can conduct a waste assessment to determine how much of each recyclable you generate. This will help you better focus on the specific types of materials that should be included in your collection program. Most waste hauling companies offer waste audit programs in addition to helping an organization set up recycling programs as part of their contracting services. Check with your existing waste hauler to see if they offer waste audit and recycling services.

If you'd prefer to research markets for recyclable materials on your own, there are a number of trade associations for specific materials such as paper, steel, glass, etc., that can help identify markets for recyclables in your area. Your local or state government recycling offices, the local Chamber of Commerce, or a local or regional recycling organization might be able to help you identify markets for materials you intend to collect. Since transportation costs can greatly influence the economics of recycling, consider local markets to help reduce these costs when conducting your research.

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WasteWise Logo: Guidelines for Use

Partners/Endorsers who submit their baseline data and goals are eligible to use the logo. The logo is updated each year and available to participants who finalize and submit their annual data.

How can the logo be used?

The WasteWise logo may be used to promote the following:

  • participation in WasteWise,
  • waste reduction in general, or
  • WasteWise to other businesses.

The logo may not be used in any way that could be perceived as EPA or WasteWise endorsement of a company’s product(s) or service(s). The logo must be used with the following disclaimer in a clearly readable manner on all advertisements, product or service literature, or any other materials that include or promote a specific product or service:

This disclaimer reads: Use of this logo does not imply EPA endorsement

When is the disclaimer unnecessary?

The disclaimer is unnecessary on internal communications and any materials that promote WasteWise, the organization’s participation in WasteWise or waste reduction in general, but which do not refer to any product or service.

What are some examples of approved uses of the logo?

The logo may be used on internal (e.g., recycling bins, newsletters and posters) and external (e.g., advertising, press releases, annual reports and websites) communications to publicize participation. The logo must be used in its entirety, without alterations or modifications, unless specifically allowed in writing by EPA.

What are some prohibited uses of the logo?

The logo may never be applied directly (as a decal, label or in any other form) to a product or materials’ primary packaging,* nor used in any way that could be interpreted as a direct or implied EPA endorsement of a product or service. Such use will result in an immediate revocation of the organization’s eligibility to use the logo.
*Primary packaging includes product packaging that the consumer sees before making a purchase."

Where can the logo be placed?

In advertising and promotional materials, the logo should be adjacent to the company name or placed in a corner of the page or advertisement block, separated from the text and photographs of the products or services being promoted. It may not be placed in the body of the text or immediately next to or below a photograph or other depiction of the product or service being promoted. For internal company communications and materials that promote WasteWise or waste reduction but do not refer to any products or services, logo placement is unrestricted.

Can the logo be used on transport packaging?

Yes, WasteWise encourages use of the logo on shipping boxes, grocery bags or other types of intermediary packaging to increase its visibility. The logo may be used freely on any packaging that is not primary.

Can the logo be used on primary product packaging that the consumer receives?

The logo cannot be used on primary packaging. Any use of the logo that the consumer might logically interpret as an EPA endorsement of a product or service is prohibited. However, when the primary product packaging also serves as the transport packaging, the logo may be used with appropriate disclaimers.

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Examples of Endorser Activities

WasteWise endorsers develop programs to fit their needs and goals. The following are some suggestions from current endorsers that you can incorporate into your WasteWise endorser activities:

  • Advertise Your Support for WasteWise: Issue a press release announcing your endorsement of WasteWise, post a WasteWise page on your Web site, or link to the WasteWise Web site. For example, REMEDY, a nonprofit that donates medical supplies to the developing world, features WasteWise in its own section of their websiteExit, encouraging medical facilities to partner with WasteWise and linking to registration information.
  • Feature WasteWise in Publications: Use this sample newsletter article or press release to guide the production of press materials. For example, the New Jersey WasteWise Business Network devotes a quarterly newsletter to the accomplishments of WasteWise partners, which spreads the WasteWise message to businesses, local governments, and other organizations in New Jersey.
  • Use the WasteWise Logo: Use the logo on your Web site or in publications. For example, newsletters, brochures, letterhead, and envelopes all carry the WasteWise logo in the city of Clifton, New Jersey. Be sure to follow WasteWise guidelines for use.
  • Recommend WasteWise in Sustainability Agenda or Tips: Include partnering with WasteWise in your organization's sustainability checklist, green tips, or other recommendations that you provide to your members, constituents, or customers. For example, the Massachusetts Food Association lists "Join the EPA WasteWise Program" as one of the Green Guidelines for their membersExit.
  • Offer WasteWise Presentations at Conferences and Meetings: WasteWise can supply slides and information packets for you to hand out. For example, Recycling Works in Massachusetts sponsors bi-annual regional WasteWise forums, offering networking and knowledge sharing for area businesses.
  • Recognize WasteWise Partners: Publicize and congratulate your members, constituents, or customers when they join WasteWise. For example, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection presents annual leadership awards in recognition of significant waste reduction achievements by Massachusetts WasteWise participant organizations.
  • Provide Technical Assistance: Offer free waste assessments, onsite visits, or other forms of technical assistance. WasteWise can provide you with materials tailored to specific industry sectors to help you direct your message. For example, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control offers waste reduction technical assistance through their SC Smart Business Recycling Program, including free onsite visits to assess waste reduction and recycling opportunities.

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Integrate WasteWise into an Environmental Management System (EMS)

An EMS is a formal set of procedures and policies that defines how an organization will evaluate, manage and track its environmental impacts. It can be an excellent tool for achieving meaningful environmental improvements, safer and healthier workplaces and improved competitiveness. ISO 14001Exit is the international EMS standard. Partners can use the WasteWise goal setting and reporting process to strengthen an EMS and meet ISO 14001 certification requirements. Most organizations build their EMS on the circular "Plan, Do, Check, Act" model and take the following key actions:

  • Draft a policy statement proclaiming the organization's commitment to the environment.
  • Identify significant impacts of products, activities and services.
  • Develop environmental objectives and goals for the organization.
  • Implement plans to meet the objectives and goals.
  • Train employees about their environmental responsibilities.
  • Perform periodic management reviews of the system to insure that it is constantly adapting to new needs.

WasteWise provides a "Plan, Do, Check, Act" framework for solid waste reduction and can help partners craft the waste reduction aspects of an EMS. WasteWise can also help partners achieve ISO 14001 certification and meet the following requirements:

  • Draft an environmental policy (ISO 14001 element 4.2).
  • Identify key environmental aspects (ISO 14001 element 4.3.1).
  • Set objectives and targets (ISO 14001 element 4.3.3).
  • Establish a management program to achieve environmental objectives (ISO 14001 element 4.3.4).
  • Establish program structure and determine responsibilities (ISO 14001 element 4.4.1).
  • Establish training programs (ISO 14001 element 4.4.2).
  • Establish a communication system (ISO 14001 element 4.4.3).
  • Monitor and measure program progress (ISO 14001 element 4.5.1).
  • Management must review program progress periodically (ISO 14001 element 4.5.2).

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