IMPLEMENTATION OF RECYCLING SYSTEMS
Solution could be reverse R3to create a Total Recycling System
Three chasing arrows: the symbol represents the steps Reduce, Reuse and Recycle in a recycling system. This is also the standard way to define recycling. These three variables (R3) will be used in implementing a recycling system. But is it the correct order to implement a recycling program in an organization?
The EPA described the three variables: Reducing, Reusing and Recycling to describe total recycling systems (http://www.epa.gov/epahome/home.htm#recycle).
“Practice the three R's: first reduce how much you use, then reuse what you can, and then recycle the rest. Then, dispose of what's left in the most environmentally friendly way. Read the tips below and explore the Consumer's Handbook for Reducing Solid Waste.
o Buy permanent items instead of disposables.
o Buy and use only what you need.
o Buy products with less packaging.
o Buy products that use less toxic chemicals.
o Repair items as much as possible.
o Use durable coffee mugs.
o Use cloth napkins or towels.
o Clean out juice bottles and use them for water.
o Use empty jars to hold leftover food.
o Reuse boxes.
o Purchase refillable pens and pencils.
o Participate in a paint collection and reuse program.
o Donate extras to people you know or to charity instead of throwing them away.
o Recycle paper (printer paper, newspapers, mail, etc.), plastic, glass bottles, cardboard, and aluminum cans. If your community doesn't collect at the curb, take them to a collection center.
o Compost food scraps, grass and other yard clippings, and dead plants.
o Close the loop - buy recycled products and products that use recycled packaging. That's what makes recycling economically possible.”
A hospital waste management company mentioned that, 55% of the bio-medical waste bins contents are not really biomedical wastes and could be graded as regular trash. Another 35% of the regular trash could be recycled. This increases the cost of waste management for the hospitals up and lowers the bottom line of the waste management companies. Why are we refusing to manage our wastes properly, even if it means we are losing money?
How are we doing in recycling?
Studies show that United States is the largest garbage generator in the world – 5% of the world’s population generation 30% of the world’s trash! So, we might have a big disconnect when it comes to to understanding the importance in recycling. One of the jokes that I have heard about the three Rs in recycling is - Reduce, Reuse and then Refuse. This “refuse” mind set could be what leads us to: generate more landfills and that could create more Brownfields; increased CO2 in the atmosphere; increased deforestation to meet the demands for paper, housing and other goods; using more electricity to make new bottle/cans, and etc.; the creation of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch; and many more environmental concerns.
The standard suggestion in a recycling program is to start by improving the variable Reduce. To implement this, we may have to change our buying habits first. This required change of mindset could be a challenging task in our market driven culture. The market also needs to change to meet the new needs of the consumers. This could be very difficult task for both the manufacturers and producers.
Therefore, can we use reverse R3 instead to create a Total Recycling System?
What do we mean by Reverse R3?
When implementing or improving the total recycling system, we could start with the variable Recycle, followed by the variable Reuse and last the variable Reduce. Whatever is left after going through these three variables will go to landfills, incinerators, and other controlled places; or straight to our environment as pollution.
Additionally, these three variables (R3) could be inter-related. Implementation or improving of total recycling systems should an ongoing process, similar to Lean Six Sigma or Continuous Improvement programs. My suggestion is to work and improve one variable at the time and see how it is affecting the other variables. It is also help to manage the project efficiently.
Step 1: While implementing/improving variable Recycling, one might see more opportunities in reducing the variable Reuse (the next stage). At this point, you should look for changes in the buying patterns, effective communication, process and procedure to improve the efficiency of the variable Recycle. This way, we could improve the variable Recycle even before we change our buying patterns! It could be much faster to implement and get results.
Step 2: The next step will be to improve the variable Reuse. Again, look for ways to improve processes, procedures, effective communication or buying patterns to improve this step.
Step 3: Third step: improve the variable Reduce. Again, look for the changes in process, procedure, effective communication or buying pattern changes to improve this step. This will be critical in the implementation of the total system of recycling of the organization. At this point, issues with all three variables will be exposed. Top executives must be involved from the very beginning to change the corporate culture to improve its total recycling system and decrease the amount of disposal. This concludes all the activities of the Total Recycling System.
The last part will to dispose whatever is remaining after improving all three variables (R3) in an environmentally safe way. Once all three variables are improved and implemented as a Total Recycling System, then go back to Step 1 – improve the variable Recycle and follow through all the steps over and over again. It should be treated as continuous improvement project.
In an earlier post, (http://siddas1346.blogspot.com/2013/05/sustainable-lean-six-sigma-waste_22.html) I gave an example of a hospital using reverse R3 to implement its recycle systems:
“One of the hospitals in New Hampshire used the model of Recycle, Reuse and Reduce - the reverse order of normal RRR. This organization first tired to increase recyclable materials by changing buying patterns. They also recycled the wasted food from the cafeteria (non-patient food) for compost. To recycle food waste, the menu was changed and Monday was declared as “meat free day”. Next, the management improved the issue with Reuse – one way was to stop using disposable items wherever possible. After controlling Recycle and Reuse, the amount of Reduce and cost of waste management of the hospital dropped drastically.”
A reverse R3 system could be the proper implementation of total recycling system in your home or office. Through continuing to monitor and control these three variables – Recycle, Reuse and Reduce - we commit to improving the environment of our planet.