Waste Management

Waste Management

When it comes to green management strategies for family businesses, a huge component strategy has to do with waste management - managing the waste that is generated from or by their family’s business.  

“For many family businesses, managing waste is a part of their operation that is under-scrutinized. These family businesses tend to deal with “waste” as a cost issue and not an opportunity for the business,” says leading family business expert Don Schwerzler. “Because it may not be a very “glamorous” part of the business, waste management is often treated as more of a costly nuisance – managing waste is never integrated as a positive strategy for the family’s business.”

Schwerzler has been studying and working with family business entrepreneurs for more than 40 years and is the founder of the Atlanta-based Family Business Institute and the web organization Family Business Experts.

The major reasons to consider “waste management” as a strategy for your family business:

Reduce the cost for handling waste

Waste management is generally defined as the collection, transport, processing or disposal, managing and monitoring of waste materials. Why do we recommend to our family business clients that they conduct an annual audit of their waste? Experts indicate that an effective recycling and waste management program can reduce the costs for dealing with waste by as much as 50%! 

Reducing environmental impact

There are three major methods of waste disposal – and all have environmental consequences, both good and bad: landfills, incineration and recycling.

According to the EPA, about 32.5 percent of the trash is recycled or composted, 12.5 percent is burned and 55 percent is buried in landfills. The amount of trash buried in landfills has doubled since 1960.

Federal MSWLF (Municipal solid waste landfills standards) include:

Location Restrictions - ensure that landfills are built in suitable geological areas away from faults, wetlands, flood plains, or other restricted areas.

Composite Liners Requirements - include a flexible membrane (geomembrane) overlaying two feet of compacted clay soil lining the bottom and sides of the landfill, protect groundwater and the underlying soil from leachate releases.

Leachate Collection and Removal Systems - sit on top of the composite liner and removes leachate from the landfill for treatment and disposal.

Operating Practices - include compacting and covering waste frequently with several inches of soil help reduce odor; control litter, insects, and rodents; and protect public health.

Groundwater Monitoring Requirements - requires testing groundwater wells to determine whether waste materials have escaped from the landfill.

Closure and Postclosure Care Requirements - include covering landfills and providing long-term care of closed landfills.

Corrective Action Provisions - control and clean up landfill releases and achieves groundwater protection standards.

Financial Assurance - provides funding for environmental protection during and after landfill closure (i.e., closure and postclosure care).

Incineration is part of the waste management equation – and fraught with problems. One example is reported by Detroit Zero Waste:

Detroit Incinerator


 In 1986 the city of Detroit constructed the world’s largest municipal incinerator. It was lauded by the city’s government and citizens as it was expected to bring economic prosperity to Detroit. It was thought that industries would be attracted to the city because at the time incineration was viewed as the safest, most cost-effective waste disposal method. Although many Detroit residents were in support of the incinerator, there were some citizens and environmental groups that were not. This group, largely made up of suburban environmental groups, was known as the Evergreen Alliance. They felt that the incinerator was a major environmental and health risk, and actively protested against its construction. Their campaign however was unsuccessful.

Environmental & Health Impact:

 The concerns of the Evergreen Alliance about the Detroit incinerator unfortunately rang true. The incinerator is one of the worst polluters in Wayne County for criteria pollutants. It emits nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and lead into the atmosphere – pollutants toxic to human health. Nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide both contribute to the formation of ozone which is harmful to respiratory health. In addition the toxins emitted by the incinerator are particularly harmful to children’s health. Particulate matter emissions contribute to Detroit’s high asthma hospitalization and death.


 The Detroit incinerator has also proven to be a money pit for the city of Detroit. The expected economic benefits of the incinerator were never realized. The incinerator was sold in 1991 to private investors to pay off city debt, and although the city no longer owned the incinerator citizens were forced to continue paying bonds owed on it. In total Detroit’s residents have paid over $1.2 billion in debt because of the incinerator. With residents paying through the years paying upwards of $150/ton to burn their trash (in comparison to average rates of $30-40/ton).

Since the incinerator’s opening in the late 1980’s it has caused nothing but environmental, health, and economic strife in the city of Detroit. In 2010 the incinerator was bought and renamed Detroit Renewable Energy in an effort to “green wash” the facility although it remains a toxic, polluting facility. Zero Waste Detroit (ZWD), a coalition of organizations advocating for the City of Detroit to move toward a waste recovery system and away from incineration, work hard to hold Detroit Renewable Power accountable for their actions.

Compliance with government regulations

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is federal agency with broad-reaching regulatory controls that affect every family business. In addition to the federal regulators, each state has their own regulators – and each state may have more than one regulatory agency. For instance, California has five different regulatory agencies dealing with the environment:

California Air Resources Board

California Department of Conservation

California Department of Toxic Substances Control

California Department of Water Resources

California Environmental Protection Agency

California Integrated Waste Management Board

For a complete list of state regulatory agencies dealing with waste management and environmental issues visit   http://www2.epa.gov/home/state-and-territorial-environmental-agencies

In addition to the federal agencies and the state agencies - each county and municipality can “regulate” how a family business operates with regard to the impact their business has on the environment.

Supports the family’s business branding initiatives

Over the past 10 years, “branding strategies” have become critically important for family businesses. Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest are causing a major shift in “brand recognition” strategies. Green management strategies are some of the best opportunities for a family business to be recognized as a good corporate citizen, one that is interested in protecting the environment.


For family business owners interested in developing a waste management program for their business, a good place to start is to learn more about the waste and recycling equipment they will need to support their program.


The most common types of waste management and recycling equipment are recycling balers, waste compactors and shredders & grinders:

 Recycling Balers

The purpose of the baler is to “densify” the materials into a “cube” or “bale” that can be easily handled and transported. 

Cardboard balers are one of the most popular types of recycling balers. Applications for cardboard balers can be found in almost every type of business.  But balers are used for much more than baling cardboard. There are many other types of bailers, depending on the size and type of business where it is being used.

Recycling balers are utilized for recycling many different kinds of materials such as cardboard, paper, plastic wrap, PET, cans, metals, clothes / textiles and more. By baling loose materials, handling and transportation costs are significantly reduced because the baled materials allow for a more efficient handling or processing of the materials.

For example, the bales reduce the space required for storage by as much as 50-75%  of the spaced used to store loose materials. Likewise, major hard-dollar savings can be realized in transportation costs. Simply stated, the baled material reduces the number of trips required to transport the baled materials.

Balers are just like any other piece of equipment - they must be properly applied for their intended use before the benefits can be realized.  If you have questions about using a baler in your business, use our Ask the Expert form and one of our equipment experts will respond.

Trash Compactors

Trash compactors or waste compactors are typically used on waste streams where the mix of trash presents less opportunity for recycling - so the waste is more likely destined to a landfill or incinerator.

Just like the recycling baler, the trash compactor is used to compress materials for more economical handling and transportation.  Depending on the waste profile, the types of trash compactors include indoor compactors, small outdoor compactors, large outdoor compactors, thru-the-wall compactors, bin compactors, hi-rise compactors, and public area compactors. If you have a question about using trash compactors in your business, use our Ask the Expert form and one of our equipment experts will respond.

Shredders and Grinders

Shredders and Grinders are typically used on materials where compression capabilities are reduced due to the “density” of the waste material. Another variable is how the waste material will be used such as when trees are being processed for use as bio-fuels.

Typically the overall volume-reduction benefits of shredders and grinders are less than that of the recycling balers and trash compactors. Recycling balers and trash compactors are basically designed to remove air volume from the materials being processed whereas the shredders and grinders are used on denser materials such as tires, trees, metals and plastics.

The type of shredder or grinder most appropriate for an operation generally depends on factors such as the resulting particle size required and the volume of materials being processed per hour or per day.

If you have a question about shredders or grinders, use our Ask the Expert form and one of our equipment experts will respond.


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