waste management

How Environmentally Friendly Is Your Waste Management Company?

Waste management

Image by JohnnyH5 via iStock by Getty Images

Waste management companies vary widely in their offerings. You might have a separate bin for each type of recyclable material. Others have a single container — some even promise to sort your reusables from the rest of your trash. 

However, what really happens to your garbage when it leaves your house? After all, you may be one of the many doing your part to decrease your carbon footprint, and you don’t want your efforts to go to naught. It begs the question — how environmentally friendly is your waste management company? 

Do They Provide Electronics and Other Specialty Disposal?

How many cellphones, computers and other electronic gadgets have you owned in your lifetime? You might not be able to count, even if you haven’t worked in tech for some time. How many do you still have? Probably only a handful. 

Electronic waste refers to gadgets, like laptops, that reach the end of their serviceable life. Throwing them in the regular garbage creates catastrophic effects on the environment and human health. For example, many of these contain lead, damaging the kidneys and nervous system. 

Furthermore, many of the products disposed of in this manner make their way into the incinerator. Burning these gadgets releases harmful pollutants into the air. There, it contributes to climate change and causes considerable respiratory distress. Other types of waste like non-halogenated plastic, as well as general plant trash and debris, transform into fuel to power cement kilns without causing toxicity. 

Therefore, the best waste management companies offer disposal for such specialty items separate from your standard garbage bin. Many do so infrequently, perhaps twice a year or once a quarter. They should notify you of these collection times however you generally receive your bill — either online or via U.S. mail. 

While it’s rare, some waste management companies go the extra mile in handling hazardous waste disposal. They will pick up used motor oil and similar items that should never be disposed of in the trash or poured down a drain or onto the earth. Generally, such companies require you to pay an additional fee and make arrangements for pickup. 

How and What Do They Recycle? 

One issue with traditional recycling is it relies on consumers to clean and sort goods into the proper bins. However, some waste management companies now offer one container for all recycled items, whether glass, plastic or paper. Others let you toss them in with the regular trash. Does all of this material end up in landfills despite your best efforts to go green? Or are such services an example of innovative efficiency? 

The answer is a bit of both. Previously, the items in separate bins for recyclables were sent to foreign countries for sorting. However, many nations have cracked down on what they will accept. This change means waste management companies here have to do a more effective job of processing what they send than many consumers or risk having it returned — creating more emissions in the process. 

Because they already faced challenges with consumer sorting models, they opted to take additional steps to ensure they sent clean loads overseas. Some claim to recover up to 80% to 90% of recyclable items. Still, critics insist mixing recycling with regular garbage contaminates too many goods that could otherwise become something else. Anything not getting recycled ends up in the landfill. 

Do They Use Alternative Fuels? 

The rising demand for alternative fuel vehicles to pick up municipal waste is one waste management innovation deserving high praise. Such trucks save companies a bundle in times of high gas prices and benefit the environment by producing far fewer emissions. 

The use of electric vehicles remains relatively low because of the upfront costs and challenges with refueling. However, you can expect to see more companies embracing this technology shortly as growing green demands lead to the construction of better infrastructure to support such devices. 

How Environmentally Friendly Is Your Waste Management Company? 

Do you know what happens to your waste after you throw it away? Well, it all depends on the actions of your waste management company. 

How environmentally friendly is YOUR waste management company? Ask yourself the above questions and find out. 

Author bio: Jane works as an environmental and energy writer. She is also the editor-in-chief of Environment.co. To read more posts from Jane, sign up for BioFriendly Planet’s newsletter!

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