By: Matt Courtland
The Green Committee, which I founded and lead at the software company where I work, has been developing an initiative for zero waste. Last week I met with our building’s facilities manager to discuss the partnership the committee has forged with EcoMovement Consulting & Hauling. They are a local startup who will soon collect our recyclables and compost – a move that excites me to no end. Our company’s facility is the first large office building in coastal New Hampshire to pursue zero waste by “reducing and reusing, then composting and recycling what’s left.”
Our facilities manager told me that she just launched a single stream program with Waste Management at one of the other buildings her company manages. She said if all goes well, in a few months Waste Management will be contracted to pick up my company’s recycling as well. She was happy to tell me that EcoMovement could still collect our compost and went on to explain that for her it would be much easier to have one vendor provide hauling services to the several dozen properties she oversees.
I suddenly saw the position she was in and wondered what I would do. I had specifically sought alternatives to Waste Management when creating our zero waste program. If I was managing multiple locations, would I continue to follow my strong inclination to support local vendors or would I instead employ the national company that I had been using for years?
The complexity of any project increases when more stakeholders are involved. Finding a vendor that provides enterprise-wide service reduces logistics, contracts, and cost. But with size comes limitations and, sometimes, with experience comes lack of innovation. In this case the local startup would have my business over the national Goliath. Here’s why.
The primary reason I would choose to work with EcoMovement over Waste Management is for the breadth of services they offer. EcoMovement is a zero waste enabling organization that actually began as a sustainability consulting firm. They morphed into a hauling company when they saw the need for better waste management in Portsmouth, NH, and kept their educational philosophy with them.
EcoMovement prides itself on working with its clients to develop an implementation plan that will ensure the customer’s employees adopt the zero waste program. They offers signage and guidelines to educate people on what to recycle in which bin and how composting works. After enabling their clients to build a strong framework for pursuing zero waste, EcoMovement steps back and encourages each company to strive for zero waste in their own way. Their website boasts photos of end users expressing their interest in working toward minimal trash generation and a video that highlights some of EcoMovement’s local partners. The owners of this startup, Rian Bedard and Marcel Miranda, take their work so seriously that if on pick-up day they notice one company’s trash tote contains recyclables, they make sure to speak with the managers and discuss how they can help develop additional methods to support employees’ efforts to achieve zero waste.
The second reason I chose the local vendor is that Waste Management does not use dedicated recycling centers, locations that specialize in recovering recyclable items. This means that some of the paper, plastics, and aluminum they collect goes into landfills. Even if this practice only happens occasionally, which is what my facilities manager told me, I believe that is too often. The problem is that Waste Management has not invested in enough recycling centers. I believe that putting the recyclables their clients have taken the time to rinse and sort in with the rest of the trash is not acceptable. If Waste Management tells customers they can collect recyclables, they need to ensure these items are indeed recycled. EcoMovement brings their non-compostable material to ecomaine, a dedicated recycling facility in southern Maine where it is properly recycled 100 percent of the time and the compost to their own composting facility in New Hampshire.
Finally, while Waste Management invested in national compost facilities expert Harvest Power in early 2010, they do not appear to collect compost at this point in time. My organization began recycling when the Green Committee was launched in mid-2007 and pursuing zero waste has been a discussion for the past eighteen months. To work with a vendor that allows us to compost enables us take the next step on our sustainability journey.
It would most likely take a full year to transition dozens of properties from Waste Management to EcoMovement or a similar, locally based and highly dedicated recycling company. I am confident that after twelve months, the process of adopting zero waste or single stream would be much further along using a vendor that offers implementation planning and recycling education as part of its services. In the end, each employee will make the decision to recycle and compost or not but rolling out a program designed to engage workers gives the entire project a much better chance for success. As my team gears up for the launch of our zero waste initiative, we are making sure to keep engagement a top priority. I am very interested in seeing how our program is accepted and internalized when it is rolled out later this summer and I’ll write another article letting you know how it goes.
Matt Courtland of The Natural Strategy educates people on sustainable business practices while reconnecting them to the energy and inspiration found in nature.