By Franck Ardourel, @usedigital

What waste management issues are we trying to solve? What is the nation trying to do to recycle waste? Are organizations involved enough in waste management? Who is leading waste management efforts in U.S.? Which cities are achieving the best waste management results in the nation?

According to a report published by the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans generated 254 millions tons of waste in 2013 (so imagine today!) and recycled or composted 87 million tons — approximately 34%. But, is a 34% recycling rate enough? The truth is that until we reach 100% it will never be enough. Fortunately, many cities across the nation have decided to work toward a zero waste goal and take action to eliminate, recycle, or reduce waste. And the concept of zero waste is being adopted by an ever increasing number of cities trying to be more sustainable.

While recycling and composting is still a challenge in some regions, more and more municipalities are becoming motivated to improve their recycling rates with the help of advanced waste reduction technologies such as organic waste pulpers. These new technologies have the advantage of offering even safer treatment and disposal options and providing new sources of renewable energy. Below are the top five cities in the U.S. (primarily in California we’re proud to say) that have achieved amazing recycling rates. San Francisco is the undisputed “winner” of recycling cities in the country, with an 80 percent success rate at keeping discards out of landfills as of 2013 – source.

  • San Francisco, 80%
  • Los Angeles, 76.4%
  • San Jose, 75%
  • Portland, 70%
  • San Diego, 68%

It’s encouraging to know that waste management recycling efforts will not stop especially since California now requires that cities cut their landfill shipments by 75% by 2020. Waste management is one of the key ways that organizations, cities, school districts, and commercial businesses can meet California’s landfill reduction goal. However technology innovation isn’t the only means toward reduction — social and behavior innovation play a bigger role. As Iain Gulland, the director of Zero Waste Scotland, says in this Guardian article, “Zero waste is fundamentally about a change of mindset. It’s about seeing all the materials circulating in our economies as resources, not waste, and keeping them in a high-value state for as long as possible. Based on that understanding, zero waste is absolutely achievable.”

At REV, our primary goal is to help organizations recognize the power of behavior change to achieve their sustainability goals. By engaging employees, savings results — not only from waste reduction and recycling, but from energy, gas and water use reduction — can be increased and, more importantly, sustained over the long term, making sustainability part of the corporate mindset. Very often we find that just by doing a straightforward waste audit, the increased awareness inspires ideas and motivates organizations to take steps to reduce and recycle.

For example, as part of their waste management audit and action plan goal of reducing waste by 25%, Sustainability Circle participant Ken Blanchard Companies developed a new version of their flagship product which is 40% lighter. The reduction in materials means not only less waste but also lower shipping costs to customers, better design, and better product. Read more here.

If you have questions or need more information about waste management or sustainability in general REV can assist you in accelerating your sustainability efforts. Just give us a call or attend one of our Wednesday webinars.