Waste Management Plan; A Complete Guide To Preparing A Waste Management Plan

Introduction 

Whether you are a school proprietor, a construction project manager or a curious student trying to learn how to write a waste management plan, this article is for you.

I have tried to keep It as concise as possible while still covering every aspect of a comprehensive waste management plan. You can implement this plan at any type of facility regardless of size. From a school to a construction site, to a hospital or a residential community. The same principles will apply regardless of size. Resources used for managing waste at each facility type may vary in terms of equipment, waste bins, personnel requirement but the steps remain the same.

Waste Management Strategy

The objective of a waste management plan is to plan on how waste generated from a facility can be managed efficiently to maximise recovery of value from waste and minimise waste disposal at the landfill. 

A good waste management strategy is one that starts with identifying ways to minimise waste before the need to dispose of them even arises. It also involves engaging all the stakeholders involved in the value chain for waste generation and disposal to ensure that everyone plays a part in sustainable management of waste generated from their facility. 

A good waste management strategy is one that ensures timely and efficient removal of all waste streams generated from a facility with optimal resource recovery through recycling in a safe and professional manner in compliance with applicable local regulations. 

To achieve this, the waste management strategy should be focused around the 5-step hierarchy for sustainable waste management as detailed in the figure below. 

Communication Strategy

To maximise waste diversion from the landfill and to optimise resource recovery from waste, it is essential to schedule training programs and awareness campaigns for all stakeholders involved on a regular basis.

To achieve this, focus on communicating the right message to all stakeholders. Keep it simple. Share simple guidelines on how they can manage the waste they generated in their immediate environment. This should include guidelines on how they can minimise waste generation from their activities in the first place, what to do with each waste stream, where to dispose of them and how to dispose of them properly to improve recycling.

To be effective ensure all stakeholders are involved in the early stage to get buy-in and have them play their part in the successful implementation of the plan.

  • Encourage residents, staff and the management of the facility to become proactive & involved stakeholders in the planning process for the recycling initiative to ensure successful implementation.
  • Communicate the plan via channels that would ensure the key message gets to everyone. Use emails, chat groups, notice boards, elevators, and other public spaces to ensure that residents and visitors are educated on the guidelines for sustainable waste management and recycling initiatives introduced as part of the waste management plan.
  • Carry out public awareness/training campaigns on a scheduled basis to engage, inform and encourage participation within the facility.
  • Monitor progress regularly and explore opportunities to improve and increase output from the program.

The overall objectives of the communication strategy should be:

  • To attain a positive behaviour change among residents and all stakeholders with respect to waste management and caring for our environment.
  • To display the importance and commitment to more sustainable and efficient use of resources across the facility.
  • To maximise waste diversion from the landfill by optimising recycling of all recyclable waste streams generated from the facility.

Waste Management Training and Awareness Program

To achieve the waste minimization and recycling goals of a waste management plan, a three phased training and awareness program should be implemented to ensure that all stakeholders are captured, and key messages are delivered to achieve better results. These approaches are;

  1. Scheduled period awareness sessions with residents and operational staff at the facility to educate them on proper waste management and recycling techniques. You should cover the following topics during the session.

 

  • Waste Stream Definition and Categorization
  • Stakeholder Involvement
  • Basic Waste Disposal Procedures and Waste Handling Techniques
  • Waste Reduction Techniques
  • Waste Reuse Techniques
  • Waste Segregation Techniques
  • Resource Conservation at Work
  • Hygiene Guidelines for Waste Management
 

2. Awareness campaigns to mark events like World Environment Day, Earth Day, etc. This helps highlight the significance of their role in contributing to a greener world through sustainable waste management. 

3. Awareness by visualization through designing and placement of awareness posters/boards around the facility to further educate and remind client staff on proper waste management and recycling techniques.

Implementation 

Once the strategy and communication plan are in place, the next step is outlining how the waste management plan will be implemented. The first step towards implementing a waste management plan is to understand the types of waste generated from a facility or community. As you can imagine the waste composition could vary significantly from one type of facility to another. For example, a hotel would have a high composition of food waste coming from the different kitchens in a hotel that cater to restaurant and hotel guests. A construction project site on other hand would have a high proportion of concrete waste or metal scrap coming from the construction activities. 

For these reasons, a crucial first step is to conduct a waste audit to fully understand the types of waste, sources, quantities, etc. and tailor the waste management plan for managing the waste streams efficiently. 

Waste Audit

A waste audit is a method to identify the types of waste produced from a facility and how much of it there is. It can help you plan on how to reduce waste. It can also show you where recycling bins need to be placed or what guide you on other resources you might need to encourage sustainable waste management at a facility. 

Key insights you can gain from a waste audit are.

  • Type of waste generated
  • Sources of waste generated
  • Quantities of waste generated

The first step in conducting a waste audit is analysing what kind of items are being thrown away over time: how many paper towels were used at lunchtime? How many plastic containers were used for food storage? 

Once you have completed the waste audit, collate the data, and analyse it for insights. Act based on your findings. Based on this information you’ve gathered, you can plan better on how to minimise waste generations, store waste efficiently, and encourage reuse/recycling of waste. A sample waste management audit template is provided in appendix 1. You can adapt this to suit your facility. 

Goal Setting, Waste Management Training and Awareness Campaigns

Now that you are equipped with data and insights from the waste audit, the next step is to set goals for reducing and recycling waste. 

Waste management training and awareness campaigns should be carried out for all stakeholders to get buy-in and educate them on the goals and the role they can play in contributing to achieving the goals.

  • Start with a training needs analysis to understand how much people know and then tailor the awareness or training to address the gaps. 
  • Keep the training simple and deliver the content in a format that the target group will be more receptive to. Think infographics with dos and don’ts, short videos if you are targeting a young audience or simple notices in public areas. You can also consider email communication or a workshop if you can get a group together.
  • Pay attention to getting the decision makers and leadership involved in the process. If there is buy-in from them, others will be more likely to participate as they see key stakeholders lead by example.  
  • This exercise should not be a one time activity, periodic reminders will be necessary to encourage people to make a habit out of participating in waste reduction and recycling activities. 

Waste Management Segregation and Recycling Process

Here we outline how to manage the different waste streams generated across a facility. For each waste stream, I will outline steps for reducing waste, then reuse and finally recycling the waste to minimise the amount of waste that end up in the landfill. 

Paper and Cardboard

Paper and cardboard are some of the most common recycling items found in places like homes, schools, offices, etc. These materials can be recycled into a variety of items, including new paper products, wallboard, insulation, and more. To reduce this type of waste, we can start by eliminating packaging as much as we can as this contributes a significant part of the paper and cardboard waste we generate.

To reduce paper waste, we can limit some communication to electronic circulation only to minimize paper waste generated from circulating them in print. We can also reuse the waste stream by reprinting on used paper, reusing cardboard packaging.

Here are tips on how to properly recycle paper and cardboard items:

  • Identity sources of paper and cardboard waste
  • Set aside a container or recycling box for collecting them
  • Cardboard boxes should be flattened before being collected for recycling.
  • Avoid throwing contaminated paper or cardboard in the recycling bin.
  • Do not mix other waste items in the recycling bins for paper and cardboard as they can easily get contaminated. When there is a high level of contamination with paper and cardboard, recycling facilities reject them and they end up in landfills.
Paper Recycling Box and Recycling Cage for cardboard.

Organic Waste (food waste)

Organic waste is mainly food waste like leftovers and the waste we generate when we are cooking like cuttings from vegetables and other food items. We can reduce this type of waste by planning our purchase to ensure we do not purchase excess food products that might end up as waste. 

We can reduce the amount of  organic waste that goes to the landfill by composting them for use as manure in our garden. For home use, there are simple composting bins you can purchase and use in your backyard to compost food waste. For bigger facilities like hotels and catering facilities, there are industrial composting units that can be procured to compost the large volumes of food produced in such facilities. Why is it important to divert food waste from the landfill you might ask. Here are some facts you might know; 

  • Food waste is a major source of methane gas. The methane produced by food waste in landfills is over one hundred times more potent than CO2 as an atmospheric greenhouse gas, making it a significant contributor to climate change.
  • According to the EPA, food waste accounts for between 10-15% of all U.S. methane emissions and 9% of total U.S carbon dioxide emissions annually.
  • Food waste is also a major contributor to pollution: it produces harmful substances like leachate (liquid that drains from landfills), odour, pests and vermin infestations (rats), groundwater contamination, littering issues.
  • Food waste contributes significantly towards disease outbreaks in developing countries where there isn’t proper collection systems or infrastructure in place which leads people directly into contact with this material.
Home compost bin
Food waste composter

Metals

Like other recyclable waste streams, you can collect metal scrap and cans in a separate bin for recycling. Metals are a valuable resource, and they can be recycled to create new products. Many metal items like aluminium can be recycled repeatedly, saving energy by reducing the quantity of raw materials needed to make new products.

Metal recycling saves 95% energy compared to manufacturing metal from fresh raw materials. So, it makes a lot of sense to recycle metals. Several types of metal items like aluminium, steel, copper, etc. can be recycled

Plastics

This is the most recyclable waste we generate in terms of volume. A lot of the items we use at home and at workplaces come in plastic packaging. Plastic is a versatile material that can be used in many different ways. It’s inexpensive and easy to mass produce, which makes it ideal for use as containers, packaging and more. However, plastic is made from petroleum—a nonrenewable resource—so we must be careful not to waste it.

As before, we start with minimising plastic waste by reducing use of it in packaging. Next time you are at the grocery store, you can request to carry your items yourself if there are only a few of them instead of packing them in unnecessary layers of plastic bags. You can also go shopping with your own reusable bag, so you do not have a need for plastic bag packaging from the stores. Next, explore ways to reuse some of the plastic waste you generate. You can use them for storage or even gardening.

There are several types of plastics that can be recycled. Some of the common ones are.

  • PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate); this is used for packaging products like water, carbonated drinks, body lotion, etc.
  • HDPE (High Density Polyethylene); this is used for making products like shopping bags, waste bags, toys, etc.
  • LDPE, (Low-Density Polyethylene); similar to HDPE, they are used for making product packaging, like bread and frozen food wraps, dry cleaning bags, coating of paper milk cartons, etc.
  • PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride); this is used for making pipes and fittings, cables, etc.
  • PP (Poly Polypropylene); these are for making hot food containers.

Depending on the space availability, you can sort your plastics by type for recycling or you can co-mingle them in one big and deposit them at the nearest recycling collection point near you. 

Glass

Glass is a recyclable material. It can be recycled into new glass or used to make other products. When you recycle glass, you are taking a valuable resource and turning it into something new, which saves energy and material resources.

You can drop off your used glass for recycling at any collection point near you. There are many ways to recycle glass:

  • You can separate your clear and coloured bottles from other recyclables by putting them in separate bins for collection at the school
  • Clear glass bottles can be returned for cash at local stores that collect them, including grocery stores, pharmacies, convenience stores and more
  • Some cities offer citizens free drop off locations for their empty beverage containers; check with your city’s website for more information on where these locations might be located

Electronics or e-waste

These are waste electronic items. We generate a lot more of these in recent times due to the huge number of items like smart phones, tablets, laptops, etc. that we use. These items contain rare metals like gold, platinum, silver, palladium, etc, that can be recovered through recycling and reused for different purposes. They also contain toxic items like lead, mercury, nickel, etc. therefore, is it important to dispose of these items properly. Most cities have recycling centres with separate drop off points for e-waste where you can send your electronic waste for recycling.

The recycling process for e-waste involves extracting metals from electronic devices and using them in other products. This process can help reduce the need for mining precious metals and make it easier for manufacturers to meet their regulatory requirements for recycling materials like copper, aluminium and steel.

Some e-waste items can also be reused by having them refurbished for reuse instead of disposing of them. There are services for the collection of smartphones and computers for refurbishing for example. Some of these services pay you to collect such e-waste items.

Hazardous Waste

Hazardous waste items are waste that could potentially harm us or the environment. Some of the waste we generate at home and at work are hazardous in nature and could potentially cause harm. Items like batteries and cleaning chemicals are some of the hazardous waste items we generate at home.

Hazardous waste should be collected separately for treatment and disposal as hazardous waste. If you are not sure of how to dispose of any of the hazardous waste items you generate, you can call your local authority for advice. Industrial facilities generate a lot of this class of waste.

Most jurisdictions have regulatory guidelines for hazardous waste disposal that industrial producers of such waste must comply with. It typically starts with proper classification and storage in suitable containers with labelling that complies with established guidelines.

There are waste management companies specialised in hazardous waste management that can be contracted for the safe treatment and disposal of hazardous waste items. Depending on the type, some of them can be treated for reuse in other industries.

Waste Management Reports and Improvement

To track progress and gain insights on performance and improvement, it is important to collect data on the different waste streams and performance on set recycling targets. A waste management report should include set objectives and recycling targets defined for the facility in question. Data from Logs from waste collection for the different waste streams generated should be presented with comparison of percentage contribution of each waste stream. 

This will help track performance against recycling targets. Based on the performance, it should include recommendations for improvement on the goals set out in the waste management plan. A sample of the table for a waste management report is included in Appendix II.

Conclusion

A waste management plan is a crucial first step in organising efforts at sustainable waste management into a plan that is concise, provides guidelines and procedures for managing all types of waste with measurable outcomes for achieving recycling targets. I hope this plan is useful to you; you can adapt it as needed.

With a waste management plan in place, you can easily identify and dispose of wastes to help conserve the environment. It is important that everyone plays their part by being aware of what they are throwing away and where it should go.

Appendices

Appendix I: Waste Audit Template

Appendix II: Waste Management Report Template

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
Pinterest

Related Article