Waste Metering | 02.28.22

The Problem With Waste Measurement: You Can’t Manage What You Don’t Measure

by compology

Waste Metering | 02.28.22

The Problem With Waste Measurement: You Can’t Manage What You Don’t Measure

by compology

The Problem With Waste Measurement: You Can’t Manage What You Don’t Measure

Would you ever make a large-scale company decision without factoring in crucial business intelligence? No. Instead, business leaders gather all the available data before coming to a conclusion, especially when the decision will attract attention from and affect customers, employees, and shareholders alike.

Take financial allocation, for example. Imagine that your CFO made investment choices based on official company reporting, only to later discover that the supplied data was 50% inaccurate. Disastrous. 

While most businesses attend scrupulously to their operational spending, many are still dealing with inefficiencies and lost profit due to lack of data when it comes to a notoriously overlooked but impactful area: waste and recycling.

Let’s examine the issues caused by today’s lack of waste measurement, how it impacts various functions of an organization, and what the future of measuring waste looks like.

The waste measurement problem

Whether you’re a sustainability leader, director of operations, facilities manager, or a financial executive, lacking accurate waste data affects you. Here’s how.

Sustainability leaders and CSOs: In search of quantifiable sustainability results

Recently, sustainability has catapulted to the top of the priority lists for many companies. Enterprise software company Salesforce, for example, announced in early 2022 that it has officially added sustainability to its list of 5 company-wide core values.

Additionally, 85% of consumers have shifted their purchase behavior towards being more sustainable in the past five years, and a third are willing to pay a premium for sustainable products. In short, sustainability is a driving force for consumers as they spend money in today’s economy.

As a part of this increased focus on corporate sustainability, many organizations have established ambitious goals relating to landfill diversion or Zero Waste to landfill, Scope 3 emissions reduction, and improving recycling rates. Monitoring and reporting on these metrics is where things get difficult, however, with many organizations relying on manually aggregated data–often inconsistent and spotty–from hauler invoices, rolled up by region.

The issue for sustainability leaders, then, is the expectation to track progress and see results on sustainability objectives. You want to know how your company is progressing on these goals and your senior leadership team, board, employees, customers and investors want to know as well. More and more companies are also producing annual reports on their sustainability efforts, some in the form of standardized ESG (environmental, social and governance) reports or CSR (corporate social responsibility) reports, in which these results are presented. 

How can you do that effectively without hard numbers? Reporting on sustainability efforts has little to no effect without consistent, accurate and standardized data that helps to quantify and measure progress.

waste measurement garbage truck dumpster

Operations leaders: Are you wearing operational blinders?

One of the goals of the Director of Operations or Facilities Manager is to improve efficiencies in every area of the business they touch, leading to cost reduction and impact on the bottom line.

When you know how you’re performing against key efficiency and cost objectives, it’s easy to set goals for improvement. But if you don’t even know your baseline performance metrics, how can you expect to track your progress moving forward?

This lack of accurate waste data creates metaphorical blinders that hinder progress. 

Do you know how much waste service you actually need? Is your hauler coming to empty your containers on the scheduled days according to the terms of your contract?

Maybe some of your dumpsters regularly overflow, leading to overage charges from your hauler.

Another common issue: contamination. Your employees may be consistently discarding non-recyclable items in your recycling containers, leading to unprocessable recycling streams and fines from your hauler.

These problems stem from one common issue: a lack of accurate waste measurement.

Stay in the know

Subscribe to the only newsletter at the intersection of waste & recycling, technology and sustainability

The current (and outdated) state of waste measurement

We know that in order to manage waste operations as efficiently and sustainably as possible, accurate weight measurement is key. But in order to get there, we need to understand how waste is currently being measured. There are two widely utilized methods.

Method #1: Estimates and assumptions

The most common way organizations are currently measuring their waste production volume relies on a longstanding and uncomplicated equation: the total number of pickups (calculated by sifting through past invoices from waste haulers) multiplied by the size of the dumpsters being serviced equals the total waste and recycling output.

While this straightforward formula appears to take into consideration all of the necessary factors in determining waste output, it has one fatal flaw: assuming that all dumpsters are 100% full at pickup.

In fact, eighty million Compology data points reveal that dumpsters are actually serviced at an average of 51 percent fullness, resulting in estimates that are inaccurate by almost half.

Method #2: Waste audits

The other method of gathering waste data? Manual on-site waste audits, which are both infrequent and inefficient. Typically performed once a year by waste haulers or waste brokers, or sometimes in-house teams, this strategy necessitates traveling to multiple site locations to gather dumpster fullness and waste content information, often after dark when customers and employees have left for the day.

Another major downfall of this type of auditing is that it only captures information from one specific moment in time, not accounting for seasonality or volatility in business operations, say from a global pandemic. It’s also difficult to scale this system across all of an organization’s locations due to the intensity of the associated costs and time needed to regularly perform these checks. Instead, a more effective strategy involves an ongoing stream of remote, real-time data points that can be leveraged to understand averages, seasonal ebbs and flows, and additional changes over time.

RELATED ARTICLE: How Technology Can Help Businesses Achieve Their Sustainability Goals

Metering is the solution

Metering utilities like gas, water and electricity has been standard practice for decades. In doing so, building owners have been able to significantly reduce usage and associated costs. 

For example, a recent study published in the Oxford Economic Papers found that water metering, on average, reduces water consumption by 22%. Another study showed that electricity meters that provide direct feedback to consumers cut electricity usage by more than 15%.

In other words, metering works.

And the same concept is true when it comes to waste. Whether you’re part of the operations team or a sustainability leader at your organization, waste metering technology enables you with precise, actionable reporting, replacing the previous methods of estimates, formulas, and gut feelings.

At Compology, we know you can’t manage what you don’t measure. That’s why we’ve created a combination of in-dumpster smart cameras and artificial intelligence-powered software with the goal of enabling you to more effectively manage waste operations, thanks to unprecedented visibility across your entire organization.

compology dumpster camera waste metering

What this means for Chief Sustainability Officers and their teams

Our customers consistently discover the same thing after a few months of working with us: they’re not producing as much waste as they think they are.

Take Apple for example, who in their 2020 Environmental Progress Report, stated:

“We were overestimating waste. Before we optimized waste measurement from our monitoring systems, our estimates assumed that bins were full each time they were emptied, leading us to overestimate waste by as much as 50 percent.”

APPLE’S 2020 ENVIRONMENTAL PROGRESS REPORT

Having access to this information delivers something every leader appreciates: a low effort, high yield win.

By implementing waste metering, you’ll have access to accurate reporting that likely demonstrates that your organization is producing less waste than you thought you were, based on non-disputable, quantifiable, standardized metrics.

But this is just the beginning. You’ll then be able to make real progress on your sustainability and zero waste goals by quantifying your current state and tracking progress along the way.

Some common metrics that see improvement include:

  • Service efficiency, reducing the total garbage truck miles traveled
  • Landfill diversion rates
  • Scope 3 carbon emissions reduced

Additionally, increases in operational efficiency help many clients see at 10-15x ROI on Compology within a few months, including McDonald’s in Las Vegas.

It’s a win-win, all the way around.

Waste metering helps to improve not only your profit margins, but your environmental footprint as well. It’s the right thing for your company and for the earth.

What this means for Directors of Operations

On the operations side of the business, in addition to driving operational efficiency and regulatory compliance, waste metering can also deliver significant financial savings. Since organizations typically overestimate their waste production, this means they’re overpaying for waste services.

In other words, operations leaders are wasting money on waste services. And it doesn’t need to be that way.

While this situation was commonplace when waste oversight was difficult due to limited visibility and reporting, waste metering technology makes inaccurate measurement not only irresponsible but also costly. 

Instead, waste metering data gives you the insight to adjust your service levels to meet your actual waste output (known as rightsizing), maximizing savings. The average Compology client saves 30% on their annual waste costs after employing this strategy. Many see an even higher rate of savings, like ADT Security, who’s averaging 53% savings a year. 

Operations teams are now also able to hold haulers more accountable to their contracted services. Compology data shows that 13% of scheduled service never happens, meaning most companies are paying for services that they’re not receiving.

Through automated service verification and missed pickup reports, you’ll know exactly what’s happening at all of your locations. On-site teams can even receive this information in real-time via an email or text notification so they know to request additional service.

compology waste metering remote monitoring

Waste metering is business intelligence

No matter your role within your organization, the ability to accurately measure waste will empower you with previously inaccessible business intelligence that enables you to operate with efficiency while reaching sustainability goals. And it’s easy.

Join the 1,300 brands already metering their waste with Compology, doing what’s best for business and best for the world. Set up a time to chat with our team today.

Would you ever make a large-scale company decision without factoring in crucial business intelligence? No. Instead, business leaders gather all the available data before coming to a conclusion, especially when the decision will attract attention from and affect customers, employees, and shareholders alike.

Take financial allocation, for example. Imagine that your CFO made investment choices based on official company reporting, only to later discover that the supplied data was 50% inaccurate. Disastrous. 

While most businesses attend scrupulously to their operational spending, many are still dealing with inefficiencies and lost profit due to lack of data when it comes to a notoriously overlooked but impactful area: waste and recycling.

Let’s examine the issues caused by today’s lack of waste measurement, how it impacts various functions of an organization, and what the future of measuring waste looks like.

The waste measurement problem

Whether you’re a sustainability leader, director of operations, facilities manager, or a financial executive, lacking accurate waste data affects you. Here’s how.

Sustainability leaders and CSOs: In search of quantifiable sustainability results

Recently, sustainability has catapulted to the top of the priority lists for many companies. Enterprise software company Salesforce, for example, announced in early 2022 that it has officially added sustainability to its list of 5 company-wide core values.

Additionally, 85% of consumers have shifted their purchase behavior towards being more sustainable in the past five years, and a third are willing to pay a premium for sustainable products. In short, sustainability is a driving force for consumers as they spend money in today’s economy.

As a part of this increased focus on corporate sustainability, many organizations have established ambitious goals relating to landfill diversion or Zero Waste to landfill, Scope 3 emissions reduction, and improving recycling rates. Monitoring and reporting on these metrics is where things get difficult, however, with many organizations relying on manually aggregated data–often inconsistent and spotty–from hauler invoices, rolled up by region.

The issue for sustainability leaders, then, is the expectation to track progress and see results on sustainability objectives. You want to know how your company is progressing on these goals and your senior leadership team, board, employees, customers and investors want to know as well. More and more companies are also producing annual reports on their sustainability efforts, some in the form of standardized ESG (environmental, social and governance) reports or CSR (corporate social responsibility) reports, in which these results are presented. 

How can you do that effectively without hard numbers? Reporting on sustainability efforts has little to no effect without consistent, accurate and standardized data that helps to quantify and measure progress.

waste measurement garbage truck dumpster

Operations leaders: Are you wearing operational blinders?

One of the goals of the Director of Operations or Facilities Manager is to improve efficiencies in every area of the business they touch, leading to cost reduction and impact on the bottom line.

When you know how you’re performing against key efficiency and cost objectives, it’s easy to set goals for improvement. But if you don’t even know your baseline performance metrics, how can you expect to track your progress moving forward?

This lack of accurate waste data creates metaphorical blinders that hinder progress. 

Do you know how much waste service you actually need? Is your hauler coming to empty your containers on the scheduled days according to the terms of your contract?

Maybe some of your dumpsters regularly overflow, leading to overage charges from your hauler.

Another common issue: contamination. Your employees may be consistently discarding non-recyclable items in your recycling containers, leading to unprocessable recycling streams and fines from your hauler.

These problems stem from one common issue: a lack of accurate waste measurement.

Stay in the know

Subscribe to the only newsletter at the intersection of waste & recycling, technology and sustainability

The current (and outdated) state of waste measurement

We know that in order to manage waste operations as efficiently and sustainably as possible, accurate weight measurement is key. But in order to get there, we need to understand how waste is currently being measured. There are two widely utilized methods.

Method #1: Estimates and assumptions

The most common way organizations are currently measuring their waste production volume relies on a longstanding and uncomplicated equation: the total number of pickups (calculated by sifting through past invoices from waste haulers) multiplied by the size of the dumpsters being serviced equals the total waste and recycling output.

While this straightforward formula appears to take into consideration all of the necessary factors in determining waste output, it has one fatal flaw: assuming that all dumpsters are 100% full at pickup.

In fact, eighty million Compology data points reveal that dumpsters are actually serviced at an average of 51 percent fullness, resulting in estimates that are inaccurate by almost half.

Method #2: Waste audits

The other method of gathering waste data? Manual on-site waste audits, which are both infrequent and inefficient. Typically performed once a year by waste haulers or waste brokers, or sometimes in-house teams, this strategy necessitates traveling to multiple site locations to gather dumpster fullness and waste content information, often after dark when customers and employees have left for the day.

Another major downfall of this type of auditing is that it only captures information from one specific moment in time, not accounting for seasonality or volatility in business operations, say from a global pandemic. It’s also difficult to scale this system across all of an organization’s locations due to the intensity of the associated costs and time needed to regularly perform these checks. Instead, a more effective strategy involves an ongoing stream of remote, real-time data points that can be leveraged to understand averages, seasonal ebbs and flows, and additional changes over time.

RELATED ARTICLE: How Technology Can Help Businesses Achieve Their Sustainability Goals

Metering is the solution

Metering utilities like gas, water and electricity has been standard practice for decades. In doing so, building owners have been able to significantly reduce usage and associated costs. 

For example, a recent study published in the Oxford Economic Papers found that water metering, on average, reduces water consumption by 22%. Another study showed that electricity meters that provide direct feedback to consumers cut electricity usage by more than 15%.

In other words, metering works.

And the same concept is true when it comes to waste. Whether you’re part of the operations team or a sustainability leader at your organization, waste metering technology enables you with precise, actionable reporting, replacing the previous methods of estimates, formulas, and gut feelings.

At Compology, we know you can’t manage what you don’t measure. That’s why we’ve created a combination of in-dumpster smart cameras and artificial intelligence-powered software with the goal of enabling you to more effectively manage waste operations, thanks to unprecedented visibility across your entire organization.

compology dumpster camera waste metering

What this means for Chief Sustainability Officers and their teams

Our customers consistently discover the same thing after a few months of working with us: they’re not producing as much waste as they think they are.

Take Apple for example, who in their 2020 Environmental Progress Report, stated:

“We were overestimating waste. Before we optimized waste measurement from our monitoring systems, our estimates assumed that bins were full each time they were emptied, leading us to overestimate waste by as much as 50 percent.”

APPLE’S 2020 ENVIRONMENTAL PROGRESS REPORT

Having access to this information delivers something every leader appreciates: a low effort, high yield win.

By implementing waste metering, you’ll have access to accurate reporting that likely demonstrates that your organization is producing less waste than you thought you were, based on non-disputable, quantifiable, standardized metrics.

But this is just the beginning. You’ll then be able to make real progress on your sustainability and zero waste goals by quantifying your current state and tracking progress along the way.

Some common metrics that see improvement include:

  • Service efficiency, reducing the total garbage truck miles traveled
  • Landfill diversion rates
  • Scope 3 carbon emissions reduced

Additionally, increases in operational efficiency help many clients see at 10-15x ROI on Compology within a few months, including McDonald’s in Las Vegas.

It’s a win-win, all the way around.

Waste metering helps to improve not only your profit margins, but your environmental footprint as well. It’s the right thing for your company and for the earth.

What this means for Directors of Operations

On the operations side of the business, in addition to driving operational efficiency and regulatory compliance, waste metering can also deliver significant financial savings. Since organizations typically overestimate their waste production, this means they’re overpaying for waste services.

In other words, operations leaders are wasting money on waste services. And it doesn’t need to be that way.

While this situation was commonplace when waste oversight was difficult due to limited visibility and reporting, waste metering technology makes inaccurate measurement not only irresponsible but also costly. 

Instead, waste metering data gives you the insight to adjust your service levels to meet your actual waste output (known as rightsizing), maximizing savings. The average Compology client saves 30% on their annual waste costs after employing this strategy. Many see an even higher rate of savings, like ADT Security, who’s averaging 53% savings a year. 

Operations teams are now also able to hold haulers more accountable to their contracted services. Compology data shows that 13% of scheduled service never happens, meaning most companies are paying for services that they’re not receiving.

Through automated service verification and missed pickup reports, you’ll know exactly what’s happening at all of your locations. On-site teams can even receive this information in real-time via an email or text notification so they know to request additional service.

compology waste metering remote monitoring

Waste metering is business intelligence

No matter your role within your organization, the ability to accurately measure waste will empower you with previously inaccessible business intelligence that enables you to operate with efficiency while reaching sustainability goals. And it’s easy.

Join the 1,300 brands already metering their waste with Compology, doing what’s best for business and best for the world. Set up a time to chat with our team today.

Ready to learn more?

We want to hear from you!