Dr. Joseph Fiksel
As we begin a new year, EHS managers will continue to look for ways to demonstrate the business value their programs bring to the company. To give you some food for thought as we look at our programs for the year, I wanted to share some information about a new project we are working on in Ohio. As you know, one effective way for you to improve your company’s financial and environmental performance is to increase resource productivity. Consider this simple performance metric: Dollars of profit per pound of material purchased. As your productivity increases, your raw material requirements decrease and you discard less solid waste, while increasing your profit margin.
3M figured this out 30 years ago with their pioneering “Pollution Prevention Pays” program, and today most companies practice both source reduction and recycling of industrial wastes. If you cannot achieve closed-loop recovery, you may be able to sell your wastes as by-products; for example; electric utilities have found many applications for coal ash and other combustion products.
However, there is still a huge amount of waste flowing into landfills—over 20 billion tons annually in the U.S. An emerging practice called “By-Product Synergy” (BPS) offers a new, collaborative approach to divert waste from landfill. Your waste stream could be a viable feedstock for some other company in a completely different industry. Similarly, you might be able to purchase lower-cost recycled materials from another company’s residuals.
Around the U.S., a number of regional networks have formed where companies work together to discover and implement these types of BPS opportunities. The Chicago network (www.wastetoprofit.com) has diverted over 165,000 tons of waste and its members have saved close to $16 million dollars. In Columbus, Ohio, we have launched a new network (www.OhioBPS.org) with the help of the U.S. Business Council for Sustainable Development, which originally developed the BPS approach. See the website for a brief video that explains more about how to get started. I welcome your thoughts and experiences with any efforts you’ve made to develop a collaborative approach like BPS. Any success stories out there that might inspire your peers or help them overcome common hurdles to getting a network going in your area?