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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Evolution of the Three R's

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle is the recycling world's mantra, or at least until recent times. While the original Three R's are important, zero waste advocates know successful systems expand well beyond and deeper within the original Three R's.

Eiko & Stephanie Barger with
At  the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council's 2012 conference keynote speaker Eiko Risch of Ricoh Electronics explained how the common three R's were expanded to Ricoh's Five R's: Refuse, Return, ReduceReuse and RecycleRefuse = Avoid buying anything that becomes waste. Return = Return packaging materials to supplier for their Reuse. Ricoh works in partnership with their suppliers on evolving packaging that eliminates waste and creates reusable materials. For a conference recap, see the ZWA Blog post, U.S. Zero Waste Business Council Hosts First Rate Conference.

During her presentation, Eiko emphasized the partnership role with suppliers along with employee engagement as key to their success. The teamwork necessary to achieve zero waste status was highlighted in the ZWA Blog post, Zero Waste is a Team Sport, where the WE Consciousness was introduced.

Ei Partner Bruce Buchan, CleanRiver Recycling Solutions founder & CEO, augments the Three, or now Five, R's with the Three C's: Culture, Communication and Collection. As an early recycling pioneer, Bruce knows first-hand culture, communication and collection are the backbone of effective recycling programs. In order to accomplish the RRR's the CCC's must first be in-place. 

CULTURE - top management sets the organization's culture and "puts the stake in the ground” on the expectations of program participation by all employees. It is important recycling practices are presented as new standard operating practices, valuable to the organization's bottom line.

COMMUNICATION - the company's recycling commitment must clearly communicate expectations and goals to employees. Assessing the baseline, or current scenario, is key to setting achievable goals associated with specific timelines. Reporting progress to employees, along with successes and challenges, is critical to maintaining program enthusiasm.

COLLECTION - beyond containers, collection is the interface between the RRR's and CCC's. Understanding where material is generated is key to effective bin design and placement. Reviewing current waste | recycling hauling contracts may improve collection efficiency, reduce costs and create a partnership, versus vendor, relationship with the hauler. Communication interfaces with collection when determining appropriate graphics at recycling stations.

Ei Chair Scott Seydel, Bruce,
Tom Lembo & Ei founder Holly Elmore
@ CleanRiver NRA Show booth
CleanRiver, a prominent recycling bin manufacturer, is committed to long-term client partnerships and offers a wide variety of services that stage recycling programs for success. With an in-house graphics department and print shop, CleanRiver works with clients to design bin and collection area signage to fit unique front and back-of-the-house scenarios. Additionally, clients have access to CleanRiver's industry expertise as an added-value.

At CleanRiver recycling is integral to their manufacturing process and product end-of-life options. Bins made from  recycled plastic boards, a popular client choice, may be returned to CleanRiver at end of use for its next life. Within their Cradle to Cradle manufacturing process, CleanRiver returns plastic debris inherent in bin construction to their supplier for future plastic boards.

When an organization decides to embrace recycling within internal operations, a team approach is necessary with suppliers, employees and waste | recycling haulers. Zero waste success stories are abundant and the forerunners are happy to share the steps taken within their organization.  

Remember Culture, Communication & Collection are a necessary precursor step to Reduce, Reuse & Recycle success. Thank you Bruce Buchan for sharing your vision and expertise!

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