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Leading the pack in enabling profitable sustainable solutions are the facility managers. A facility manager of today needs to be able to clearly communicate the benefits and positive economic impact of sustainability and energy-efficient practices, not only to the public, but also to the C-suite (corporate heads). While there is a dramatic need for every facility manager and the organizations to care for the environment, it is just as important that the executives and stakeholders are made aware on the benefits of these initiatives on the company’s financial success.

Understanding the need for a proper streamlined approach for workable solutions to minimize waste, The International Facility Management Association and the IFMA Foundation have released ‘Waste: A Comprehensive Guide to Waste Stream Management’, for facility managers. It provides information on reducing the amount of waste in the built environment by managing the waste stream. Waste flow management is one of the most profound examples of sustainable practices saving money, improving productivity and benefiting the triple bottom line for organisations around the world.

Waste is defined loosely as the useless consumption or expenditure of resources. This not only encompasses the popular understanding of waste (in terms of energy and garbage), but wasted time and effort as well. Waste stream management is the process of tracking resources from the beginning to the end of their existence.

The guide from IIFMA introduces waste stream management and resource management as the two related areas of sustainability that are generally overlooked. The industry focus on energy consumption, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and water conservation sometimes overshadows the impact that facility managers have on the economy, the land and nature itself due to practices involving the purchase, use and disposal of materials.

Waste Stream Management

Waste stream management is the ongoing process of tracking what comes into a facility, where it comes from and, subsequently, what leaves the facility and where it goes. When designing a waste stream management plan, consideration must be given to the impact of materials on the environment. Waste stream management entails source reduction, purchasing locally, reuse strategies, diversion from landfills, energy recovery and the tracking and documentation of these activities. The focus of a waste stream management plan, just like any other type of sustainability plan, is to measure, set goals, reduce and report.

Handling these activities responsibly through planning and operations will benefit an organization in numerous ways. Managing waste effectively will save money, as the practice affects both what is purchased and how much of a product stays in-house while reducing costs and fees. The process minimizes harmful impacts on the environment, through both the use of rapidly renewable resources and a reduced quantity of materials sent to landfills. It also improves the perception of a company as a good corporate citizen.


Waste stream management plan components 

• Understand the waste streams. Understand all regulatory considerations – who is responsible for each, how is each handled, what the policies and procedures are and who the waste haulers are.

• Measure current waste generation. An important first step in tracking progress is to establish a baseline against which future reductions will be measured.

• Complete a facility-wide waste operations assessment. Assess indoor container placement, colorcoding and labeling. Assess exterior waste equipment utilization to maximize efficiencies and hauls to reduce costs and transportation impact.

• Build teams, get leadership support and assign dedicated resources. Create a multi-stakeholder sustainability team with representatives from departments that share responsibility for the purchase, management and/or disposal of particular waste streams.

• Set targets/goals. Set both short- and long-term reduction goals for waste minimization and integrate them into a meaningful and achievable waste management plan.

• Develop strategic action plans for improvement. Choose and document a project path to help meet goals.

• Ensure regulatory compliance across all waste streams. This is not an option.

• Adopt integrated waste management policies and procedures. This must be done for each waste stream.

• Track, measure and report. Track waste reduction measures for several reasons: to verify they are meeting the intended goal, to track cost and operational savings, to monitor staff satisfaction, to report on all of these successes/failures and to inform your next steps and give you traction as you prepare for the next project.

• Train, educate and celebrate. Users must be educated on the reasons for any changes, trained on work practice modifications and informed with ongoing feedback about how the action plan’s progress is meeting the goals. Training and education can be both formal, with specific learning objectives (compliance or policy-related training should be documented), and informal, with educational materials including posters, newsletters, e-blasts and a variety of media.

Acknowledging individual and collective efforts through recognition programs provides opportunities to celebrate and communicate the valuable work being accomplished.

Resource Management

The focus of 21st-century facility managers needs to be on resource management and sustainability for future generations. Integrated resource management involves the design and implementation of management practices, taking into consideration the effects and benefits of all resources, such that the goals of a sustainability action plan are achieved over time and across the enterprise. The plan is comprised of decision making concerned with the allocation and conservation of natural resources. The main emphases are on an understanding of the processes involved in the exploitation of resources; the analysis of the allocation of resources; the development and evaluation of management strategies in resource allocation; and the proper utilization of these resources once their intended purpose has been fulfilled. It is a cross-disciplinary study, concerned with the complex relationships which govern resource exploitation, allocation, use and post-use.

Sustainable development and environmental protection are major goals of a resource management approach and the concept encompasses waste stream management as one of its components. Incumbent in this practice is the transition of the four Rs of waste management to the four Es of resource management: efficiency, economics, environment and ethics. Efficiency is doing the best possible job with the resources at hand and/or easily accessible with the understanding that waste is the visible face of inefficiency. Economics assumes that less waste is more efficient and that efficiency saves money, materials and energy.

Environmental impacts relate to the preservation of natural resources as well as to the minimization of the negative effects of landfills. Ethics ties in to the attempt to harmonize business with community interests, whether those community interests are local or global. Not only do people need to belong to a community, but industries, companies and corporations need to belong as well. Businesses need to take root in the ecology of commerce and that process will create new jobs, which will be necessary to develop better designers and better organizers. Waste is not a high-tech problem, it is a low-tech problem. It’s not magic machines; it is better design, better organization, better education, both at the facility and corporate levels.

Valuable information on the use of resources from harvest through manufacture/ production, transportation, use and disposal of materials along with environmentally preferred purchasing programs, life cycle assessment and various disposal methods is covered in the guide. It explains rapidly renewable resources, embedded energy, virtual water, package design, recycling, document destruction, landfills and the affect of materials on indoor environmental quality. It allows in managing resources throughout a product’s life cycle saving time and money.

Sustainability How-to Guide

A publication of

IFMA & THE IFMA Foundation

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