Last week, we ran through the basics of reuse and its rising popularity. So, now that we’re all on the same page about the importance of reuse, how do we actually make like Mother Nature and reuse everything we create?

Beyond the ROI

When we spoke with the Portland Timbers about their sustainability programs, they responded by saying, “[The Timbers] generally have a good sense of what particular programs under our sustainable umbrella involve and yield, but some of the things we do is because it’s just the right thing to do.”

In a world bursting at the seams with ROI, KPIs, and other business metrics, how refreshing is it to hear that an organization might consider doing something good simply because they believe in it? 

All that said, there are plenty of benefits to implementing a reuse or recycling program. Take Anheuser-Busch for example. By implementing a consistent recycling program, their New Jersey brewery recycled nearly 79,000 tons of material, which generated roughly $1.2 million in revenue. But more than that, their program saved them $5.4 million in disposal fees. Sounds like a wise business decision to me!  And their California brewery keeps 98% of what they use out of the landfill.  

Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson also designed a revenue-generating reuse program. In fact, they generated over $85,000 in annual revenue by simply donating or repurposing old office furniture, computer equipment, and office supplies.

At Relan, we work with businesses to design and implement reuse programs both big and small. Here’s one more example: 

One of our clients rotates their print marketing and advertising materials quarterly. So, we built a program where every quarter, they ship their old marketing materials to us.

Their marketing team decides which products they want for the quarter, and we design and create the reused products. One quarter, they may want tote bags for their spring golf event. The next, luggage tags for their annual conference. The one constant? They are repurposing thousands of square feet of material that would otherwise end up in a landfill. 

Questions to ask before starting a reuse program

Reuse programs can be all shapes and sizes. If you’re considering a reuse or recycling program, start by answering these five questions: 

1. What materials do we currently throw away that we could reuse or recycle instead? 

Think conference banners, billboard advertisements, overprinted or overstocked t-shirts, construction mesh, or backdrops. 

2. Who needs to be involved in the process? 

This could include key decision makers in your organization, the teams that would be responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of the program, any external vendors that might be assisting you in the reuse or recycling process (think recycling groups of companies like us, who repurpose your material), influencers in your organization who can help spread the word, and your employees.

3. How frequently will you need to recycle or reuse the material? 

If you’re a high-producing factory, you may need your recycled materials picked up daily. On the other hand, if you’re a small shop with lower volume, you may be able to schedule monthly or quarterly pickups or shipments of your materials. 

4. What can you do with your recycled materials?  

The way you handle food waste is different from the way you handle overprinted t-shirts. Explore your options with both local and national vendors to see what’s possible with your material. You’d be surprised at what people can do with material that you’d otherwise throw away!  What is important to you and your organization?  Take your values and needs into account.  

5. Do you need to present a business case? 

Most programs will need to be presented and approved by decision makers in your organization. Once you’ve answered the above questions, map out an action plan, a timeline of events, and a recommended budget and estimated ROI. Don’t forget to include your “why” - your reason for implementing a program in the first place, how it positively impacts your organization, and the long-lasting benefits of such a program. 

Engaging your customers in reuse

In our next post, we’ll share what we’ve learned from our clients about engaging customers in reuse, and the benefits of strengthening relationships through a commitment to sustainability programs. 

Header image: Flickr/Reuse Warehouse