Legislation supporting the development of the circular economy can drive growth for waste management and recycling firms. US companies can sell waste materials to the secondary market, but first they must ensure they comply with state regulations.
That’s according to Chris Williams, CEO of ISB Global, a UK-based solutions provider for the global waste management and recycling sector, who calls for all states to tighten regulation of waste disposal. Williams also highlights how waste management companies stand to benefit from local governments who prioritise the circular economy.
“The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates waste from homes, businesses and industry,” said Williams. “It does so under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), which was designed to manage all types of waste – everything from recycling and recovery to cleaning up waste that has been disposed of improperly.”
“While the RCRA is national legislation, the practical functions of waste and recycling management are managed at municipal level. For example, the Solid Waste Program, which is part of the RCRA, encourages the environmental departments within each state to draw up their own plans to manage solid waste collection and disposal.
“Most states adhere to federal laws and many have added more stringent local legislation, particularly for hazardous waste management. States can adopt their own high standards that go above and beyond federal requirements, which means that waste and recycling management requirements can often vary significantly from one state to another. This can cause the market to fragment, hindering the ability of waste management companies to provide a comprehensive service.”
Williams acknowledges that inconsistent legislation presents compliance challenges. But he also underlines how waste management businesses can actually profit from the uptick in demand for recycled materials such as paper, timber and certain metals.
“Legislation to improve recycling rates is being implemented at a state and federal level across the USA,” he explained. “This doesn’t just affect consumers and businesses – it also affects the organisations that collect, sort and process waste materials. They have to show that they can handle more stringent recycling requirements, and that they are disposing of the waste they collect responsibly.”
“That said, a growing circular economy also creates a considerable commercial opportunity for these companies. Instead of collecting waste and sending it elsewhere, they can generate new income by selling materials such as metals and timber into a secondary market. The increased legislative requirements come with significant potential for growth, with proper planning in place,” Williams explained.
“Organisations who embrace policy changes and invest in infrastructure such as anaerobic digestion (AD) plants and materials recycling facilities (MRFs) with the associated technologies to speed sorting like AI, Robotics and Optical Recognition, will both gain financially and also be at the forefront of new and emerging opportunities associated with the circular economy,” he added.
“Waste and recycling management is a complex business. From customer acquisition, contracts, orders, route management, drivers and weighbridges, to handling new circular economy-based income, businesses need to have complete visibility across all of their operations in order to identify new efficiencies, put in place more effective processes and manage their legal reporting obligations as well.
“A single integrated IT system approach provides this all-important visibility across every process by connecting and coordinating multiple separate systems and datasets throughout the organisation. The combination of this in-depth visibility plus accurate real-time data analysis is essential if waste management firms are to capitalise on the transition to a more sustainable circular economic model – in the US and elsewhere.”