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Survey Finds Organizations Are Missing Opportunity to Divert Waste from Landfills

Date: May 22, 2007

Source: Global Renewable Energy and Environmental Network (GREEN)

Organizations Are Missing Huge Opportunity to Divert Trash From Landfills And Benefit The Bottom Line, New Green Study Finds

Comprehensive thought leadership initiative, "Garbage Is a Terrible Thing to Waste," to be unveiled on free webcast.

Caught between mountains of garbage and a rapidly shrinking number of landfills to put it in, companies are facing increasing pressure to find viable alternatives that both meet business needs-namely, the bottom line-and address environmental issues. And even when those alternatives are available, and organizations are aware of them, the changes are painfully slow in coming. That's the sobering conclusion reached in "Garbage Is a Terrible Thing to Waste," a comprehensive report from the Global Renewable Energy and Environmental Network (GREEN), underwritten by BioSystem Solutions. The study quantifies the current processes for waste management and highlights potential benefits of better managing biodegradable waste streams.

"Waste management obviously isn't a glamorous subject, but it's one that organizations can no longer ignore," said Eric Gertsman, Director of GREEN, a business-minded affinity group committed to advocating clean energy and sustainability solutions. "As America quickly runs out of space to dump its garbage, organizations should be considering several viable alternatives to alleviate the sting of rising costs while facing up to tough environmental realities. Yet they're not making the necessary changes fast enough, or at all, and they're going to pay a higher price later."

The GREEN study includes a survey of hundreds of professionals working in operations, facilities management and environmental/sustainable management, as well as in-depth interviews with experts on waste management at a number of diverse and well-respected organizations: Chiquita Brands International, the City of Los Angeles, Cushman & Wakefield, John Deere Agri Services, Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates, Michigan State University, Miller Brewing Company, New Belgium Brewery, Science Application International Corporation (SAIC), Starbucks, University of Minnesota and Yum! Brands.

Top-level survey findings include:

  • Roughly 51 percent believe that their organizations spend "a lot" on waste management, but of this group, 73 percent are resigned to fact that these high prices are to be expected.

  • Only 26 percent of respondents say they are aggressively exploring new or innovative waste management options, with another 51 percent casually doing so.

  • Respondents' two greatest concerns about landfills are groundwater contamination (53 percent) and the fact that many landfills are reaching capacity (27 percent).

  • Respondents compost an average of 9 percent of their total waste despite the fact that industry estimates show that about 70 percent of waste can on average be composted. Well over half the respondents have no clue that it is possible to efficiently compost the majority of their waste streams.

  • Only 7 percent call themselves "extremely knowledgeable" about the composting process, but another 48 percent believe they have a "good general understanding" of it.

  • Opinions about composting are all over the map, but fortunately "environmentally responsible" (57 percent) heads the list. Completing the top five are less glowing endorsements, saying that composting "is not the right fit for my organization" (36 percent), "takes too much time and effort" (28 percent), "requires too much space" (26 percent), and "involves bad odors" (23 percent).

  • Composting ranks a lackluster ninth out of the eleven most important environmental topics for organizations. The obvious leader is "energy conservation," followed by "general recycling," the "use of less harmful chemicals," "solid waste reduction," and "water conservation."

"In the past, due to a lack of technology, ample space and labor, in addition to the slow and odorous nature of traditional methods, composting largely fell out of favor," said Pete Scharfglass, CEO of BioSystem Solutions. "With the advance of new technologies, however, it is now possible for composting to occur in both urban and rural settings in a manner that can be clean and cash-flow positive."

The need is definitely there. In 1980 there were approximately 20,000 landfills nationwide; today, there are only about 1,600 (U.S. EPA), a staggering drop of 92%. Alternatives like interstate garbage hauling and incineration have introduced other negative environmental consequences, such as increased carbon emissions.

GREEN received general advice and valuable assistance fielding the survey from the following organizations: International Food and Agribusiness Management Association (IAMA), StopWaste.Org, Green@Work Magazine, Facility Managers Institute News, Food Management Magazine and MSW Management Magazine.

About GREEN

The Global Renewable Energy and Environmental Network (GREEN) is an affinity group comprised of corporate, institutional, non-profit, academic and government professionals, who are involved and interested in a wide range of sustainable business topics. The group endeavors to deliver innovative resources, reports and events that advance knowledge and encourage reflection in a number of different areas, including renewable energy, waste management, green building, conservation, clean water, smart transportation, sustainable agriculture and environmental education. Partners and members bring considerable industry and technical knowledge to the undertaking as the channels of communication always remain open. Find us at www.bpmforum.org/green.

About the BPM Forum

The Business Performance Management Forum is an organization that helps advance the understanding of business performance management techniques, technologies, and processes in global enterprises. The Forum brings together influential senior executives and business line leaders who oversee enterprise finance, operations and technology functions. Driven by demands for improved operational conditioning and corporate governance, the BPM Forum helps research, develop and promote cutting-edge methods to strengthen financial management disciplines, drive performance accountability; tighten budgeting and planning practices; strengthen operational visibility and insight; and ensure performance improvements across large organizations. More information is available at www.bpmforum.org.

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