Waste avoidance is seen by experts as the most preferred tool for developing a sustainable waste management system.
Given the worrying juxtaposition of growing waste generation levels, driven by increasing urbanisation and industrialisation against insufficient waste infrastructure in the urban areas, it could significantly minimise the intense pressure on the waste management infrastructure.
With intense but by no means undeserved attention placed on improving waste collection and championing zero waste as a means of extracting value from waste streams, one may think that avoidance of waste has no bearing on the thoughts of the stakeholders. But experiences in Ghana offer a point of reflection.
The industrial and services sectors contribute significantly to the economy. Kenya National Bureau of Statistics provisional data show the two contributed 16 per cent (Sh1.4 trillion) and 43 per cent (Sh3.8 trillion) of the GDP, respectively, in 2018.
The business models and utilisation of resources by these sectors play a pivotal role in shaping consumption trends. Hence, industrial and service establishments are ideally positioned to influence waste generation trends, especially in the manufacturing, construction, trading and hospitality sectors.
Incorporating business model changes with waste prevention outcomes is a rather well tested feature driven more by the desire to enhance competitiveness in aggressive markets than any strong environmental impulse.
Relevant everyday examples can be seen in paper waste generation or, more accurately, reduction, in two prominent sectors that have witnessed an increasing overlap in recent years — banking and telecommunications.
Thanks to mobile money platforms, cell phone users can acquire airtime or data without purchasing a paper-based scratch card. And with SMS alerts for ATM transactions, an increasing number of bank customers no longer need paper receipts for real-time records.
These are, arguably, customer service-driven innovations but they have the effect of eliminating generation of paper waste or at least minimising its likelihood. More importantly, from a business perspective, the initiatives offer an opportunity for performance efficiency gains by reducing outlays on paper and its supply chain logistics.
In the Kenyan context, a case for low-hanging fruits would be food waste reduction in hotels and restaurants through reducing kitchen error in food preparation and better inventory management or last year’s ban on plastic bottles and drinking straws at 17 Coast beach hotels.
For the broader industrial and services sectors, there are no one-size-fits-all answers as the adopted business model changes depend on the target material and how it is used by businesses and their customers.
Another key consideration would be determining whether the benefits of altering operations, products and services to reduce waste generation outweigh the costs, as well as the impact such a change will have on customers’ satisfaction with the good or service being provided. Hence, a detailed understanding of how the management of the target material resources affect a business’ bottom-line is critical.
The pioneers would be better positioned in future-proofing their competitive edge.
Mr Attafuah-Wadee is director, Resource Transformation Ghana Ltd. [email protected]