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How to Navigate Waste and Recycling Regulations

Compliance in waste and recycling management is a critical issue for stores.

In today’s environmentally conscious environment, waste and recycling management has become a critical issue for businesses of all sizes. Chain store owners play a pivotal role in minimizing their impact on the environment by complying with federal, state, and locally sanctioned waste and recycling regulations.

In this article, I will try to provide a comprehensive overview of these regulations, with a focus on organics, packaging, extended producer responsibility (EPR), and hazardous waste measures. By understanding and adhering to these guidelines, you can contribute to a greener future while avoiding potential penalties and reputational risks.

Organics regulations

Food waste regulations are an issue for chain stores businesses across the country. Food waste is the number one material going to the landfill by weight and is often the heaviest material in our trash, which means diverting it away from landfills and into recycling streams can have a significant impact on reducing waste overall.

Implementing a food scrap diversion program may seem daunting, but many companies, including Rubicon, offer food waste diversion services and resources that are readily available to help your business get started. Often, businesses must adhere to food waste regulations to avoid potential fines. Most regulations require businesses to separate food scraps from other waste streams and dispose of them through composting or anaerobic digestion. Some regulations also require businesses to track and report their food waste diversion efforts.

To effectively manage food waste, businesses can first conduct a material characterization study, also known as a waste audit, to identify areas where food waste is being generated and the opportunities to reduce it.

Packaging regulations

Packaging is integral to many chain stores, but managing packaging waste responsibly is easier said than done. Various materials such as plastics, paper, glass, and metals are used in packaging. Each material has unique recycling attributes, influencing their environmental impact. Plastics, identified by resin codes, vary in recyclability. Paper packaging, including cardboard and cartons, is often recyclable. Glass and metal containers are usually recyclable, contingent on proper sorting.

Regulations guide packaging waste handling and disposal. Compliance with local regulations is vital. To reduce packaging waste, convenience store owners can adopt strategies such as bulk purchasing, reusable alternatives, and partnering with eco-conscious suppliers. These practices can save costs while benefiting the environment.

Understanding packaging materials, complying with regulations, tackling multi-material challenges, and adopting reduction strategies are pivotal for chain store owners aiming for responsible waste management. By doing so, stores can play a pivotal role in reducing their environmental impact.

Extended producer responsibility (EPR) regulations

Extended producer responsibility (EPR) is a central concept reshaping the waste and recycling industry. It shifts accountability from consumers and municipalities to producers and manufacturers. Under EPR, these entities become responsible for the entire lifecycle of their products, from creation to disposal. This approach aligns with sustainability goals, reducing the burden on landfills and moving producers closer toward Rubicon’s mission to end waste.

Deposit schemes, take-back programs, and financial incentives are being implemented to motivate producers to adopt sustainable practices. These regulations encourage efficient resource usage, recycling, and minimizing environmental impact, with non-compliance potentially resulting in penalties.

Chain store owners embracing EPR can enjoy several benefits. Participation in EPR programs fosters improved waste management practices and can yield cost savings through optimized material usage and recycling processes. Moreover, your sustainability reporting efforts may attract environmentally conscious customers and positively impact brand loyalty.

Collaboration with suppliers and manufacturers is pivotal for EPR success. Partnering with companies that adhere to EPR principles and offer take-back services can streamline the handling of products and packaging after use.

Hazardous waste regulations

From cleaning supplies to batteries, chain stores often handle products containing harmful chemicals that, if mishandled, pose serious threats to both the environment and public health.

Chain store owners must recognize hazardous waste among their inventory. This includes items such as expired medications, chemical cleaners, fluorescent bulbs, and electronics. These materials contain toxic substances that require specialized disposal procedures.

Hazardous waste disposal is heavily regulated to prevent pollution and safeguard human health. Convenience store owners must adhere to local, state, and federal guidelines concerning the collection, transportation, treatment, and disposal of these materials. Failing to comply with these regulations can result in severe penalties.

To manage hazardous waste responsibly, convenience store owners should prioritize employee training on proper handling and storage. Establishing designated storage areas with clear labeling is crucial. Partnering with companies that have experience handling hazardous waste disposal services is vital to ensure that these materials are disposed of safely and in accordance with regulations

About the Author

Taylor Wall is a Key Accounts Director at Rubicon, a leading provider of software-based waste, recycling, and fleet operations products for businesses and governments worldwide. Rubicon’s market-leading RUBICONConnect™ platform featuring multi-location sustainability reporting is the smartest way to manage waste and recycling at scale.