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Know Your Sustainability Rights!
Know Your Sustainability Rights!

In celebration of Earth Day on April 22, we turned to Waste Management of Illinois, Inc.'s sustainability guru, Dana Lee, to learn how businesses can jumpstart a better sustainability plan.

Most businesses know having a sustainability process is important, but many don't realize they have all the necessary resources at their fingertips. To help guide businesses in the right direction, Waste Management of Illinois, Inc.'s Recycling Account Manager and sustainability expert, Dana Lee, shared how small- to medium-size firms can leverage their local waste and recycling vendor to increase diversion rate and become a more eco-friendly business.

Q: What are the biggest mistakes you see businesses make regarding sustainability practices?
A: Lack of consistency. It's very important for any recycling program. A great example is containers — black or grey for trash and blue or green for recycling. A big issue is public spaces; they tend to have consistency issues due to the lack of, or incorrect, signage on the containers.

Q: Is securing consistent processes a big goal for Waste Management?
A: Yes. Our biggest goal right now is further education and reducing contamination. Waste Management has launched the Recycle Often. Recycle Right. campaign to educate businesses and consumers to the simple basic actions they can take to grow and improve recycling. By highlighting what can – and can't – be recycled, we hope to drive the right behaviors and principles for sustainable recycling. And being in the Chicagoland area, companies have all the resources they need locally because WM provides experts on different materials and customized solutions. We are working to find new ways of extracting value from the materials to help our customers reach their long-term business strategy.

Q: What advice do you have for small and medium size firms?
A: First determine where you are as far as your sustainability efforts. For instance, go through your trash and recycling and document your results of this simple waste audit. Then use this information to create goals and action plans for your business. When it comes to waste diversion, utilize your current waste hauler. WM has resources for their customers to make it simple for them to improve their waste reduction and we will help them be successful.

Q: Elk Grove Village is home to a lot of "makers." That means a variety of materials, products, parts, and chemicals are being used. It's confusing to understand what's safe to recycle and what's trash. Does Waste Management have any tailored solutions for businesses with this pain point?
A: Yes, we have experts that visit manufacturing businesses specifically and will work with the company to try to recycle commodities that are usually deemed "non-recyclable". WM also conducts waste stream audits where we go through 24 hours' worth of trash to find solutions and help a business recycle things the right way. There's a cost to it, but the results are valuable, especially if a business is pursuing LEED certification.

Q: If I ran a manufacturing business in Elk Grove Village and I visited Waste Management for sustainability resources, what would I find?
A: We have a whole division that's tailored for the manufacturing sector. Our experts have been working with this industry for over 18 years. We also do training for employees so everyone on your team is on board. A service worth mentioning is LampTracker®, a recycling solution that helps businesses recycle all different types of products the right way including: plastic bags, batteries, lamps, all sorts of things. It's a great program for manufacturers.

Q: Why do you feel it's important for businesses to make sustainability a priority?
A: Personally, I feel it's the right thing to do, but for businesses, there are so many reasons. Not only can it attract customers and great employees, but also it has potential to save on your bottom line while using less resources. It makes business sense!

About Dana
LEED Green Associate; Recycling Account Manager

Dana works with clients to design and implement new recycling and composting programs in the Chicagoland area, while supporting four recycling material recovery facilities and two compost sites. In addition, she assists with educating program participants and maintenance staff as well as managing both new and existing programs.

For sustainability resources and solutions by Waste Management, visit WM.com/sustainability.

Questions for Dana? You can reach her via email at dlee12@wm.com