Rethinking Waste

August 22, 2013

The equation of business is simple: revenue minus cost equals profit.  The task of business leaders is to drive revenue streams and lower costs across the business -- thus, increasing profit.

For nearly every business, the word “waste” is synonymous with costs, trash, and annoyance.  This often results in wastes being overlooked, dealt with begrudgingly, and rarely re-examined for better options. And better options do exist.

Here are three ways to think about better options for your wastes:

Option #1.) Less Costs - Waste disposal and recycling markets are constantly evolving and growing. Often, more providers and new service offerings in the market will drive down costs. Thus, it is prudent to research new and improved disposal and recycling options on at least a quarterly basis.

Option #2.) No Costs - Some service providers can handle multiple waste streams across many customers. This bundling of services can actually generate net revenue and often times no net costs for you, the customer. In this scenario, the service provider can pass along volume discount savings, find and secure best-in-market pricing, and provide additional cost savings through management efficiencies.

Option #3.) New Revenue - The old adage “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” is true.  TerraCycle has built a very successful business taking free and net positive, i.e. someone pays them, “wastes” and turning them into new products. One example is a backpack that is made from previously used Capri Sun packets.

As with anything new in business, turning waste from a cost into revenue requires challenging assumptions, innovating old and tired practices, and finding value in ways that were missed before.

Take the garage sale.  For decades, these were about handmade signs, Saturday mornings, and getting there early to find the best deals.  Until eBay came along.  eBay is now a global, online “garage sale” and is in the business of reselling one person’s ‘waste’ to another interested party.  By the way, eBay posted a profit of $2.6 billion in 2012.

The next TerraCycle, the next eBay awaits...for the next person, the next company to rethink waste.  The opportunities are out there but require a new mindset and a new and more sustainable way of looking at the world and at business.




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