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Not All Material is Created Equal- Why Health & Safety and Environmental Sustainability Matter in Recycling

Oct 07, 2016

By Darrell Kendall, Executive Director of RIOS™

On National Manufacturing Day, it is important to remember that manufacturing and recycling are a perfect match. Manufacturers make the products that get recycled, scrap is generated from the manufacturing process and gets recycled, and then manufacturers buy commodity grade recycled product to make new things. None of those examples even take into account the packaging materials that also can be recycled.

There is plenty to debate about design-for-recycling, and the sharing of information to encourage more effective and efficient recycling of products. There is one fact that cannot be debated. Manufacturers, and indeed anyone that is recycling, must consider their recycling vendor’s environmental, health & safety, and quality systems to ensure that the material they are generating is being recycled properly. In the electronics recycling industry, this has already begun to happen. Driven by data security issues and brand protection, major companies nearly always require their vendor to have a certified EHS management system. But, why does it stop with electronics? The scrap from a CNC mill doesn’t have data that can harm a company’s reputation, and post-industrial plastic is tough to trace, yet it is still imperative that these products be recycled responsibly by recyclers that have invested in an EHS management system.

Manufacturers have long invested in making their own facilities safe and environmentally responsible. Corporations like Toyota and Caterpillar, to their credit, have even become synonymous with developing efficiency and safety programs that other companies can implement. Unfortunately, when manufacturers are selecting recycling vendors, they are not putting the same value in that company’s employees, or the environment. Requiring or giving preference to a facility that has a certified QEHS management system, like RIOS (the Recycling Industry Operating System) or ISO during vendor selection means that the same values permeate a manufacturer’s entire footprint.

As we celebrate the jobs, innovation, and positive economic impact that manufacturing has on the world, let’s also remember that manufacturing, acting as the recycling industry’s older sibling, can be a leader in raising the level of health & safety and environmental responsibility within recycling facilities around the globe.   That is something everyone can celebrate.

For more information about RIOS™ contact Darrell Kendall at 202-662-8528.