Marketers Are Making Progress on Waste Reduction
Happy Earth Day, a couple days late.
With all the talk about trashing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), whatever your politics, there’s not much good in generating waste. Direct marketers have known this for years.
The Inefficiency Problem
Waste equals inefficiency. Pollution is inefficient. Waste and pollution extract costs that should be accounted for in business ledgers, accounting standards, valuations, investment strategies and — absent these places — at least public policy. The position is both conservative and progressive.
This is not about hugging trees, climate change and saving the planet … it’s a ruthless commitment to efficiency that portends a golden age premised on sustainability. Who knows? The world’s first “trillionaire” may well emerge from sustainability innovation …a better battery, a smarter meter, a national grid built on local power exchanges instead of costly, inefficient, long-distance transmission, fresh water from salt water at low cost, or fill in your own idea here. The 20th Century created millionaires through extracting limited resources. The 21st Century will create billionaires by harnessing unlimited resources. (Though we can debate another day the sustainability of generating billionaires.)
We are far better off as a society, as businesses, as citizens, when we seek sustainable forms of energy, production and end-of-life for our products — because waste and pollution, read inefficiency, are avoided. A throw-away society throws away society.
Yes, there are some dirty secrets in clean energy in the march toward sustainability, but despite our fracking and attacking climate science, we’re really making strides toward efficiency that are all the more remarkable because our economy continues to grow, too. Can zero waste be a next quest? Should it?
Toward Zero Waste
Look at what cities and towns are achieving in municipal solid waste — our everyday garbage, so to speak.
According to the most recent EPA statistics, released late last year for 2014:
- Per capita waste in America dropped to 4.44 pounds per day per person, down from its 2000 peak of 4.74 pounds per day per person – achieving per capita metrics we haven’t seen since the 1980s. (Still, we’re generating twice the rate of garbage than experienced in 1960.)
- 36.4 percent of total municipal solid waste was captured for recycling and composting — nearly four times the recovery rate from 1985. This is creating its own industry, and jobs, built on recovery.
- Paper and paperboard comprise 26 percent of total municipal solid waste, but nearly half of all recycled and composted content. It’s the third largest category destined for landfills — behind food waste and plastics.
- Tipping fees for landfills hover around an all-time high of $50/ton. Waste has its price.
So as I ponder this 47th anniversary of Earth Day, let’s recognize how we are achieving and honoring efficiency – by generating cleaner energy and less waste. Just like our marketing.