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Top Considerations When Selecting a Waste Management Vendor

Due dillgence will help you find the right partner for your facility’s disposal needs

Waste Management Vendor

Facility managers have an ongoing responsibility for the security and proper maintenance of their buildings to meet the needs of their company, employees, and customers. Part of this responsibility is proper, sustainable waste management.

Facility managers rely on vendors for proper waste disposal, including disposal of hazardous waste that could be dangerous or harmful to human health or the environment. Be it compliance history, sustainability factors, capacity, or reliability, facility managers must consider several key aspects when vetting a partnership with a waste disposal vendor. Here are some top considerations to help you find an experienced vendor.

Compliance history, site conditions, and timeliness

Facilities in every industry—from health care to education to government—have different disposal needs depending on the volume and type of waste they produce. Some projects that a skilled waste management vendor can and should manage for their clients include coordination with proper disposal haulers and onsite waste management tasks to ensure compliance.

Evaluate potential disposal facilities prior to selecting a waste management vendor. Review the vendor’s compliance history involving state-permitted facilities to determine if it is following regulatory requirements for its operating site.

Regardless of whether you already have a vendor partnership or are looking for a new one, here are important questions to ask:

  • Is the vendor legally permitted to do what they say they can do?
  • When referring to a treatment, storage, and disposal facility (TSDF), where are they taking the material? Where is the final disposal outlet?
  • Many companies restrict where you can send waste material to limit the liability. Is the vendor managing the waste material the way they said they would? Can they provide appropriate documentation?
  • Is the vendor processing material in a timely fashion, or are they stockpiling it onsite in hopes that they find an outlet?

Companies and organizations are now using qualified third-party auditors before selecting a waste management vendor partner. Clean Earth, as a disposal vendor, has seen an increase in the number of audits as well as the level of detail in these audits over the last couple of years. Often, potential disposal partners are required to complete an extensive audit to include site history and financial stability information, compliance records, health and safety ratings, copies of permits, and a certificate of insurance. Many organizations are also using third-party safety audit companies to review waste management vendors, focusing specifically on their safety program and score. Facility managers can do the audits themselves or they may choose to hire a qualified third-party consulting company equipped with the tools to evaluate safety programs.

Values and sustainability

Waste management vendors also can become sustainability partners to help you minimize or achieve zero waste at your facility. If this is your goal, it is important to select a vendor that has a shared goal and vision for how your facility can become more sustainable. The vendor should work closely with you to establish a partnership that takes the entire company into consideration and creates waste solutions that fit your needs.

A vendor should be experienced in the entire waste management process and be proactively involved in providing solutions to eliminate waste before it even happens. Sustainability goals are becoming increasingly important across every level of an organization, so it is critical to consider sustainability initiatives when selecting a vendor, as the outcome—good or bad—will impact the future of any company in any industry.

Vendor costs

While it is easy to focus solely on cost when looking for the right vendor, price should not be the only factor. Remember, the least expensive route is not always the best route. When it comes to evaluating the impactful differentiators among vendors, making a decision boils down to their compliance history and capabilities.

When considering cost, it is also important to commit to a vendor partner that will add value and provide brand protection for the company and/or facility, too. Many clients and consumers are looking to invest their money in products and services that align with their sustainability values. So, it makes sense to choose a vendor partner that places sustainability initiatives as a top priority. Sustainable waste management helps eliminate waste that might otherwise be placed into a general garbage stream for landfill disposal.

Labor shortages

The current labor shortage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted nearly all waste management services across the United States. This shortage translates to a lack of drivers for waste pickups, lack of staffing at disposal facilities, and delays in waste processing. As these factors can impact existing vendors, facility managers should monitor the service they are receiving from any current vendor.

Make sure to allow enough time to move waste material. For large quantity generators (LQGs) that generate 1,000 kilograms (approximately 2,200 pounds) per month, often there’s a 90-day window to dispose of the waste. To avoid last-minute rush changes, develop another plan that includes the use of alternate disposal facilities and transportation.

With various delays and labor shortages, sometimes the solution is as simple as having clear and constant communication with your vendor. Contact your vendors often and ask if they are experiencing delays. If so, requesting a storage extension might be necessary to maintain compliance. File storage extensions with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or local state agencies.

End goals

Always look for ways to improve systems and processes that produce waste byproducts or affect waste management within an organization. Find a vendor that will be a long-term waste management partner, one that can help identify and process waste streams in the most sustainable manner possible—now and in the future—to help your company and customers meet their sustainability goals.

At the end of the day, a partnership can make or break an organization. That’s why it’s important to conduct thorough research before you chose a vendor, ask questions, and schedule thorough audits. Using the techniques discussed in this article, facility managers can establish and maintain strategic, beneficial relationships with reliable waste management vendor partners.

Cheryl Coffee

Clean Earth’s Senior Director of Environmental and Compliance

As Clean Earth’s Senior Director of Environmental and Compliance, Cheryl Coffee manages the daily compliance for numerous Clean Earth sites across the United States, including several RCRA-permitted facilities and approximately 30 other processing facilities focused on specialty waste streams. Coffee is responsible for the overall management and renewal of operating permits, vendor audits, environmental reporting, and the corporate-wide environmental management program. To learn more, visit www.cleanearthinc.com.

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