So, why is it important for companies to utilize a “good” 3rd party waste & recycling management firm? It makes all the difference in the world in your experience and the actual results that are produced. This is the area that most companies are clueless about. For example, some companies have used a “so-called” 3rd party waste & recycling management firm in the past and had a bad experience for any number of reasons. To them, this means that “all” management firms are bad. Okay, if we follow that logic then if you go to 1 restaurant and the food is bad, the service is terrible, you were overcharged, etc., then “all” restaurants must be bad, right? You see my point. The expertise, processes, resources, attitude, etc., of the management firm makes a huge difference and varies “greatly” from one firm to the next. This is why so many companies are weary of doing business with them.
The waste & recycling management firm began to rise in popularity in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. These companies were called “waste brokers,” a term still used today. The original concept was simply aggregating the number of locations that they would negotiate trash service for, and using that buying volume / leverage to gain more aggressive rates from the trash haulers. There are still companies today that “only” perform this function for their customers. As the recycling “boom” kicked into high gear, some of these companies saw the writing on the wall and began to diversify into brokering recycling services as well. As we reached the 21st century, the incredible diversity of recycling, non-uniformity of programs (recycling availability varies greatly by region of the country), and the pressure on companies to seriously monitor and improve their corporate social responsibility / environmental sustainability, etc., caused companies to require significantly more expertise from a 3rd party management standpoint. Some “waste brokers” did not want to invest in the resources and expertise to become a “waste & recycling management firm”. Other waste brokers took on the task in a “make shift” way to just “get by” and somewhat appease their customers. This poor effort is the cause of a bulk of the “bad experience” that i mentioned above. Poor program management, invoice issues, haulers not being paid, poor customer service, etc. Put a very bad taste in the mouth of many companies. On the other hand, some waste brokers worked hand-in-hand with their customers to grow their company’s expertise, resources, back-end systems, etc., to continue to meet / exceed their customer’s expectations. For example, they may have had several fortune 500 customers who were early adopters of corporate social responsibility / environmental sustainability. They chose to continually reinvest in what those customers needed to have an outstanding waste & recycling program.
You would think that today it would be easy for companies to identify a “good” waste & recycling management firm, right? Wrong! The reasons can be subtle and difficult to spot if you do not know what you are looking for. One of the most subtle reasons is a company’s “familiarity” with the management firm they have been using. The term “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” can be very costly. Many companies have been cruising along with their current management firm with seemingly minimal issues. There may be the occasional billing issue, service issue that lingers, and maybe even a stop-service issue occasionally (a hauler is not paid and they stop their service at a location). This reminds me of the story of the old hound dog lying on the porch. A neighbor was over to visit and heard the dog howling in pain every few minutes. He finally ask the dog’s owner what was wrong with his dog. The owner said, “ain’t nothing wrong with him, he’s just lying on a nail and it doesn’t hurt him bad enough yet to get up.” The bad news is a lot of companies allow a lot of damage to occur before ever doing anything about it. What kind of damage? In today’s environment, if your waste & recycling program is not moving forward on a consistent basis, you are going backwards. There is too much pressure being applied in this area by environmental groups, regulatory groups, communities, shareholders, stakeholders, employees, etc., to have a stagnant program. The danger is a management firm who is not driving the program forward. They are “not” driving additional savings, additional recycling projects, auditing cost and performance monthly, pushing for better environmental sustainability performance. That kind of “so call” management firm may be depending on its past performance, or the fact that the “nail” doesn’t hurt you bad enough yet to consider making a change. The real danger here is not if but “when” waste & recycling shows up on the company’s radar due to bad press created by an environmental group, or by a regulatory group due to a non-compliance issue, or communities or investors wanting to see the company’s corporate social responsibility and/or environmental sustainability’s performance historical-to-date as well as a game plan for the next decade, prior to providing land, tax breaks, or funding for the company to expand. This is a very easy trap to fall into. Don’t allow yourself to be a victim. You need to find a “good” 3rd party waste & recycling management firm. Really, go find one… Now!