By Robert Gordon
Program Director, Reverse Logistics Management at American Public University
Reclaimed goods can lead to many creative ideas and transform old products into substantially different new ones. Recently Southwest Airlines upcycled 80,000 leather seats into bags, seats, and balls.
There is a common misconception that recycling and reclaiming goods are the same. Recycling is limited to reusing the raw material of a product. Reclaimed goods are materials that are re-used in a manner to gain back some value.
Reclaiming can be the process of using parts from old computers to make new computers. It could mean taking old parts from cell phones to use in newer cell phones. Reclaiming often takes usable pieces to create other similar equipment in order to create inexpensive parts for other similar units.
There is no doubt that the management of the waste stream has become more important as the public has become more aware of organizations that do and do not take steps towards preserving the environment. The United States is by far one of the most wasteful nations in the world and, although we have taken steps to reduce waste and to recycle more, the U.S. is still far behind other nations.
Despite political and social pressures, some companies still actively resist moving towards programs and solutions that preserve the environment. There are two important best practices that can make a huge impact in any organization.
Appoint a Passionate Advocate
The first best practice is to appoint a responsible person who has a passion for this work. It is not necessary for a top-level manager to be appointed the environmental manager, but what is important is that the person believes that it is important and they are passionate to make sure that it is done.
Too often, organizations are satisfied with putting colored bins out and leaving the responsibility to the employees to properly sort. Without any kind of accountability, these kinds of programs never amount to much and probably end up costing the company more money than they save. Finding a passionate person to lead environmentally targeted programs will often lead to remarkable results.
Don’t Just Recycle – Reclaim
The second best practice is to require that all areas (company locations) have a reclaimed goods program. Large or small, if the organization makes it a requirement, then people will take action. When a program is required, it forces people to think about the best way to do it. And, when forced to bear the economic impact, employees will try to make the program as cost-effective as possible.
The specifics of the program should take into account the scope of the reclaimed goods. If the volume is high, a liquidation company should be used to help locate buyers for the reclaimed goods. If the volume is low, donating the material to an organization like Goodwill that has a re-use mentality might be a more appropriate direction.
Start Your Program
Reclamation should be an actionable item in every organization. If no one is looking for opportunities, then no one will find them. If someone is put in charge, then action will be taken and, often, very creative action will result. It is not easy to start, but once the program is in place, it will build upon itself.
About the Author: Dr. Robert Lee Gordon is the program director for the Reverse Logistics Management department at American Public University. Dr. Gordon has more than 25 years of professional experience in supply chain management and human resources. Dr. Gordon earned his Doctorate of Management and Organizational Leadership and his Master of Business Administration from the University of Phoenix as well as a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from UCLA.