The Top 3 Waste Trends That Will Affect Businesses in 2023

What does the landscape for waste management look like in 2023? What has changed from 2022?  We’ve rounded up three key trends to note, and included recommendations on what you should do.

1) The Inflation Reduction Act

The Inflation Reduction Act, which went into effect late in 2022, is one of the biggest regulatory tools targeting climate change, with billions in grants, tax credits and loans to incentivize clean energy and other carbon reduction efforts. As such, the ripple effects will impact every business.

The Act will spur the development of alternative energy sources, and encourage efforts like waste to energy conversions. There are credits for landfill gas construction and biofuel projects, for example, and incentives to purchase electric vehicles. Provisions to start a National Green Bank to promote zero-emissions technologies will further projects in this vein.

The Act could also have a big impact on organic waste, which is heavy, and takes up a lot of room in landfills. According to the U.S. EPA, 35.3 million tons of wasted food went to landfills, constituting 24.1 percent of all MSW landfilled in 2018.  The Act’s incentives could be used to implement organic waste bans, build composting facilities, and even encourage the use of digesters, which Waste Dive reports could qualify for a credit “if they recycled over 100,000 tons per year and if their CO2 is captured and beneficially used.”

What does this mean for your business?

In general, the likely outcomes will include reduced landfill methane emissions as landfill owners try to capture and convert the gas for biofuels, as well as lowered carbon impacts from waste transportation and processing, with waste hauling trucks going electric, for example, and facilities switching to alternative energy sources.

This means that your Scope 3 emissions, which are indirect emissions that occur both upstream and downstream, will potentially decrease. This may help you reach your sustainability goals and improve your GHG (greenhouse gas) reporting. You can help ensure that your business reaps the benefits by re-evaluating your work with vendors and suppliers to see if they are cleaning up their product and service lines. Your business could also take advantage of the incentives directly to lower your carbon footprint.

The biggest takeaway for every business is to target organics. The Act will set in motion systems that will support organic waste reduction efforts. Less heavy organic waste could mean lower waste costs.

2) Mandatory, Standardized Reporting

While the Inflation Reduction Act has provisions to help standardize climate reporting, the U.S. SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) is expected to finalize and release new climate risk disclosure rules in April 2023 that will seek to do the same. In addition, SEC reporting will be mandatory and require third-party verification. This trend is not just confined to the U.S. The EU’s Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive came into effect in January 2023, and work is ongoing on a European climate reporting standard that is expected to be issued in mid-2023.

This global move towards transparency and standardized reporting is a response to the increasing impacts of climate change that is being reported in the news every day. Investors want to know that businesses understand the climate risks that affect them, and are taking steps to address the issue. By demanding accurate accounting and reporting of climate risks through ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) frameworks, investors are ensuring that companies take an in-depth look at their operations and supply chains.

Related: New research from Great Forest about data inconsistencies for reporting GHG from waste was just published in the Journal of Waste Management and Disposal. Look for more analysis on this soon.

What does this mean for your business?

Businesses should prepare now to meet these requirements, especially with regards to Scope 3 emissions, which can include tracking data from hundreds of vendors and suppliers that work with a business.

Companies that already track their data will be well positioned to be in compliance with these new rules. Those that are behind can review the CDP global disclosure system to get an idea of what might be coming down the line from the SEC.

Want an idea of what your GHG from waste is? Click here to use our GHG calculator and receive your GHG from waste data within 48 hours. In the meantime, learn more about carbon footprint accounting for small businesses.

3) More Fluctuating Values

For most of 2022, demand for recycled plastic, paper and cardboard was up, driven in part by supply chain issues and an increasing number of consumer brands making recycled content goals, among other factors. In 2023, with the odd U.S. economy displaying both recession and boom features, businesses will see the value of materials in their waste streams fluctuate and get more unpredictable, although the value of some recyclables will hold. And with more Extended Producer Responsibility laws expected to pass in 2023, more businesses will be forced to find a solution to address the end-life of the products they make.

What does this mean for your business?

By reducing waste, businesses will be less at the mercy of changing commodity prices, and more able to control waste cost inflation. Businesses are learning that the long-term solution lies in moving towards Zero Waste and being part of the circular economy. Going Zero Waste is especially crucial in light of the revelation that most businesses are paying to send more material to the landfill than they need to. According to the largest and most comprehensive waste characterization study to date focused on commercial buildings, 62% of what a typical business discards in the trash is NOT trash at all, but is made up of materials that are easily recyclable or compostable.

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