The waste management industry handles materials ranging from empty drink bottles to hazardous biological wastes and contaminants. Depending on how you handle waste, your management business can potentially preserve the environment or harm it. As a result, if you enter the waste business, you will answer not only to financiers or fellow owners, but also to people or agencies who may be impacted by your activities or want to restrain their harmful effects.
A business exists to maximize profits for its investors and owners. For waste management businesses, especially start-ups and recyclers, investors look at customer demand for your services and staff with knowledge and experience in your brand of waste management. You will need adequate vehicles to collect waste, land or buildings to store it and computer or other systems to handle it. Many investors and lenders consider, in addition to the bottom line on an income statement, your business’ environmental stewardship.
Federal, state and local governments view environmental protection as a major function. Environmental regulations determine what landfills can accept and how wastes like recyclables are separated. These rules not only impact your operation, but also add potential customers handling recyclables or material forbidden in landfills. You may need a permit for many types of waste management activities. Arizona, for example, requires permits for storing or hauling such waste as biohazards, household waste and petroleum-based waste and for landfills.
Environmental protection groups can influence your business practices. These stakeholders can cast negative publicity on waste managers and collectors with poor environmental records or histories of violations. Lenders and investors may feel pressure from these groups to deal only with businesses with safe and earth-friendly practices, such as recycling and pollution control. These activists can be your ally by encouraging businesses to recycle and use your services. In addition, you may have to address the concerns of non-governmental groups if you apply for landfill or waste-handling permits.
Households and businesses rely on collectors to take and handle trash and other waste products, especially items that a landfill will not accept. Many of these stakeholders, including offices and stores, want (or may be required by law) to recycle and need separate containers for you to collect. Others--especially auto service shops--have used batteries, motor oil, anti-freeze and other hazardous materials. Some governmental bodies function as customers by awarding contracts to businesses to collect and dispose of waste.
Citizens have the right to be notified of permit requests and plans for landfills and hazardous waste facilities. As with non-governmental organizations, individuals can speak at government hearings. If you run a waste disposal business, you must be prepared to answer citizens' concerns about the environmental and health effects of your enterprise -- especially if you propose a site nearby or in their neighborhood for your waste facility.