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Compliance: Benchmarking to improve recycling and waste management practices

Given the constant pressure to improve service and demonstrate added value, it would be fair to assume that most traditional disciplines within facilities management have now been perfected. Recycling and waste management seems an obvious candidate for this argument, yet reality often says otherwise. While service provision has come a long way since the growth of anaerobic digestion plants and energy-from-waste solutions, there are still ineffective models in use.

While in one sense recycling and waste will always be viewed as a by-product in need of disposal, there is now also a growing group of customers that treat refuse as key part of CSR outreach and as a potential asset. This change in expectation, as well as a public growing increasingly concerned with the state of the environment, has forced a total reappraisal of recycling and waste management practices. This is where best practice benchmarking comes into its own. It allows customers to assess their provision against an industry standard, which can then be used to drive improvements and a reduction in overall cost.

What is best practice benchmarking?
In essence, best practice benchmarking is a comparison of performance and process on a strict like-for-like basis. Anything and everything can be benchmarked – volumes, streams, handling, costs, recycling, carbon, teams and even entire organisations so long as the reference point has been clearly defined. The exercise not only allows organisations to see where they stand on a scale but also offers tangible evidence of improvement, providing the benchmark is revisited at a later date. It’s recommended that a benchmark exercise is carried out every six to eight months to derive most insight.

Here are five ways benchmarking helps to improve recycling and waste management practices:

1. It provides financial transparency
The price paid for the removal of any material, be it dry mixed recycling or material destined for waste recovery, will vary according to the location of the end of life solution. Greater distances will affect transport costs, as well as other handling charges that the provider deems fair. Through a benchmarking process, customers can begin to determine a fair market rate according to the region in which work is being carried out.

On a more granular level, benchmarking can even explore costs per stream against each building user to understand the effect of minor collection changes. Having established these factors, customers can then take the necessary steps to improve the management of their recycling and waste and its cost effectiveness.

2. It makes recycling and waste processing more efficient

Benchmarking will highlight sites where there are over-scheduled collections or an over capacity of material storage. Changing scheduled collections based on actual knowledge gained through benchmarking, rather than reacting to site staff claiming a bin is always ‘overflowing’, will ensure that the most appropriate solution is put in place.

3. It corroborates data and provides a path for improvement

Despite a wealth of building data, organisations can often end up with a recycling and waste management service that is not fit for purpose or too expensive. A thorough benchmarking process will locate the ‘holes’ in a customer’s operating data, i.e. uncover the inconsistencies between what’s written on the page and the reality on the ground. This kind of analysis not only highlights where a company might be paying for the removal of fresh air but also creates a reference point for future improvements once initial service amendments have been made.

4. It helps the environment

Benchmarking measures recycling rates and can identify greener end-of-life solutions for material, making it a key tool for customers that seek to reduce their impact on the environment. In some cases, the process will identify carbon reduction strategies for those using landfill solutions and even help customers to improve their ‘Scope 3’ emissions (indirect carbon output) by recommending local service providers or solutions for waste and recycling. Ultimately, benchmarking gives all stakeholders the opportunity to see where the environment can benefit from change and will enable a more accurate measurement of total carbon output.

5. It cuts through the noise

Benchmarking encourages businesses to approach recycling and waste in a different way, giving clarity to the true nature of their management practices. Few will, for example, factor in the litres of liquid recycling produced as a result of gully or interceptor clearances, or the rebates accrued when IT equipment or textiles are recycled from on-site stills. Benchmarking will fully capture this data, as well as other often-overlooked considerations like overall weight, to ensure that corrections have genuine, lasting effect.

Paul Taylor is recycling and waste manager at Sitemark, www.sitemark.co.uk









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