Waste, Money, and the Business Case for Redesign

Redesign may be the most pivotal “R” in Moving Toward Zero Waste. Dozens of organizations  have cut costs and increased revenues after looking with fresh eyes to redesign “waste as usual.” The most dramatic successes come with a shift in thinking to seeing waste as a measure of inefficiency. This shift allows waste reduction opportunities to be measured and managed, improving the bottom line as well as social and environmental performance.

Redesigning Waste Creates Jobs

According to the EPA, recycling is good for the economy. “If you divert one ton of waste from landfills, it pays $101 more than if it were just managed as waste,” said Mathy Stanislaus of the EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response. “There’s a delta of increase in salary and wages. And with that same diversion, sales go up $135.” Zero waste “is a goal we want to strive for,” says Stanislaus. “If waste goes to landfills, it means we’re not doing a good job of managing it” (Knowledge@Wharton).

Studies show that moving toward zero waste creates jobs, and lots of them. For example, the Tellus Institute found that achieving a 75% diversion rate for municipal solid waste and construction and demolition debris by 2030 would produce 1.1 million more jobs than a “business as usual” scenario. In addition, many jobs would be created indirectly.

Another study by ILSR found that per ton of materials:

  • Sorting and processing recyclables create 10 times as many jobs as landfills or incineration,
  • Manufacturing new products from recycled materials creates 26 times as many jobs,
  • Reusing textiles creates 85 times as many jobs, and
  • Reusing computers creates 296 times as many jobs as landfills or incineration. Reusing materials also requires higher skill levels, which increases the economic benefits of those new jobs.

Still not convinced? Read more about the economic benefits of waste from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.