So what I’d like to speak about on your podcast relating to the industry is helping people understand that there’s two sides to the story. What is really the problem with waste? Why is it so bad for us to be throwing so much into landfills, the cost associated with that, the long term effects associated with that, the environmental effects associated with that. What’s really happening in the industry? Different things to look out for, what some solutions are, and different alternative ways of thinking so that we can actually get to solving the problem.
Let’s first talk about the problem which is when you have a trash company that is also your recycling company. You inherently have a conflict of interest because their bread and butter is the landfill business. Oftentimes, depending on what state you’re in, it’s cheaper to throw things in a landfill than it is to invest the cost to have them recycled. This is not always the case because recyclable materials is run off of the commodity markets which fluctuates on a daily and monthly basis. Those are things that are out of any individual’s control and is governed by an industry standard yellow sheet.
Let’s think about it. If you’re a landfill operator or if you’re a trash company, you’re making money by putting those materials into a landfill because you can charge companies more every time you pick up. Just so we’re clear, I’m mostly talking about business instead of residential at the moment.
When you have them doing both services, yes, of course on paper it sounds good and they’re going to help you but what real incentive do they have to help you recycle more items as a company than it would be to charge you for the trash. And then if they separate it, depending on how high the market prices are, either way, people are thinking that they’re having materials recycled and they’re not actually being recycled. They’re being put in a landfill.
Sometimes it’s easier for companies to just put things in a landfill than to try to deal with the problem head on until they look at what their five-year cost of waste is. This is for someone that manufactures something. Because if you have a repeated process, that means you have the same materials, the same output but if you mess something up, that’s thousands of tons of waste that just gets thrown away instead of reused, recycled. There’s all these different things that can happen with it. If you don’t have the proper processes and procedures in place, you’re just going to end up throwing it away. You’re going to end up wasting money. You’re going to end up hurting the environment.
The reason that landfills are bad for the environment is because a number of reasons but one of the biggest is having all that stuff over time start to break down chemically and have those liquids leech into the ground and then getting then to the ground water sources which then we inherently put back into our bodies. This is really bas especially in certain parts of the country. I believe there’s been a number of different documentaries made about it and how bad it really is when you have these huge landfills in these smaller communities or on top of an aquifer. All kinds of crazy things happen behind the scenes and nobody really ends up finding out about it. There’s also a big issue with methane gas building up in landfills. And then obviously there’s just the inherent issue of us being a wasteful society in general.
So those are the main problems and I don’t necessarily think companies want to be wasteful but they’re also running a company. So if it’s not profitable and it’s easier to throw it away, then they’re just going to throw it away but they don’t want people knowing that. I mean just go to any company’s website and go to their sustainability page. They all say almost the same thing. “We recycle all this stuff. We do all this great stuff.” I don’t think their intent is always bad but with business operations, you got to do what you got to do to survive and that’s oftentimes something that’s looked at as a last priority and not something that should be incorporated into the actual process. Just things to watch out for are green-washing and the way companies word things and then the sure way is to see what they say on their website and then actually go and look inside their trashcans at the facility.
What I’ve worked very hard is bringing a solution that I call eco capitalism to the table. That is basically being able to make it really easy for people to recycle materials to make it both economical for businesses as well as a real environmental solution. I think that means making that super simple for people to recycle, making it more convenient for them to throw something in a recycling bin than to throw it in a trash can, making sure to educate people.
The last piece of the puzzle that I’m working on really hard right now is how do you then utilize social media to play on people’s emotions to get them to do the right thing? I’ve been all over the country studying this to see how things really are based on what it says online that a city is doing versus what actually is going on. I have millions of pictures and videos to back this up but oftentimes what you’ll see is a lot of talk but when it comes down to it people just aren’t incentivized and there’s no universal system that’s accepted nationally. Until we get to a more universalized system so there’s no more confusion, everybody is educated, everybody is incentivized, and you actually make it profitable, then I think giving people a place to show how good they’re doing using social media is a great way to instill change on a scalable level. That’s what I want to talk about. How can we create a platform to really highlight and really put on a pedestal the people in the businesses that do go above and beyond the trying and how can we avoid turning that place into somewhere where they have to shame someone because you go and take a picture in the back of their store or of their dumpster where you find a ton of recyclable materials that’s being thrown away because people are lazy or they’re not educated or whatever the reason is, that’s when you’re really going to see change.
Thank you and have a GREEN day,
Steven T. Rosenberg