Businesses generate a large portion of the estimated 32 million tons of cardboard discarded annually in the US. Fortunately, according to the EPA’s Municipal Solid Waste in the United States: 2010 Facts and Figures, 85% (27.2M tons) of those boxes were recycled in 2010.
With a price of around $100 per ton, recycled cardboard is becoming a target for theft in some urban areas. A recent Atlantic Cities article Inside the Surprisingly Lucrative World of Cardboard Theft , details this growing trend in New York City.
“Cardboard poaching, as it’s become known, is a multimillion-dollar cancer growing in the disease corpus of recycling crime. Though the media have lately zeroed in on scrap-metal theft…. the stealing of cardboard still hovers below most people’s awareness level. They might change soon as the bandits become even more brazen and as recyclers bear down on the paper perps who propagate this unusual black market.”
The author, John Metcafle estimates that the New York recyclers are losing “anywhere from between $8 to $10 million a year.” He also mentions that as businesses lose recycling revenue from their recycling waste, these costs could eventually be passed along to the consumers.
If the “bad guys” understand this opportunity, why don’t more businesses manage this waste stream revenue with the same focus of their internal operations? Here are some lessons learned:
- Document and detail your waste stream to understand current costs and recycling revenue opportunities
- Review strategies to decrease disposal costs and increase recycling revenue (i.e. compacting, segregation by type/grade of material).
- Rethink your packaging waste. Are there opportunities to eliminate, reduce, or reuse your inbound packaging?
Our experience shows that many businesses overlook this opportunity to reduce costs through rethinking their packaging waste. Is it time for you to gain a new perspective? What is stopping you from taking this next step?