Project planning should include the waste effect

Including waste management in every project planning
Including waste management in every project planning

Just watching a few minutes the News is enough to comprise that there is a really big issue we all have to deal with: waste, tons and tons, mountains of waste, waste even in the most rural parts of the world. Alternatively, we can take also a short walk in the surroundings and we will discover it: waste… All kind of waste, not just in the poor areas, but even in the most developed parts of the world.
We are all waste producers, every day, everywhere. Be it visible or invisible waste.
You find horrific reports on consequences, destruction of our oceans, land and ourselves. Unforgettable all these incredible, terrible waste photos … Waste pickers in the slums, children playing in the waste, dirty water, dead animals because of plastic, smog alarm and breathing aids, description like this:

Waste picking provides some income to those who desperately need it and subsidizes cities that pay nothing for the service. But it’s a brutal way to make a living. Pickers spend their days sorting through garbage in massive landfills that reek of methane. The workers make about $1.50 a day, barely enough for food and water. Many youths forget their empty stomachs and empty lives by inhaling shoe polish or turpentine. Their parents have life expectancies of forty-five. Often, the pickers’ only direct interaction with government takes the form of brutal police beatings. And despite the cruel efficiency of the system, much of India’s trash still doesn’t get cleaned up. (extract from The Solution Revolution (SSIR) http://shar.es/SYjXd)

And the solution?
There are several solutions in place to reduce waste, but there is a really sustainable one only that could change the world: trying to avoid waste wherever possible. An important step is to change our perception of waste and to feel directly responsible: If we make waste reduction to one of our core activities of whatever we plan, be it
– Waste of material, e.g. the amount of plastic bottles, cans, useless promotional papers and advertisements …
– Waste of time, just thinking of all the meeting and conferences where interesting solutions are discussed, but no action plan is implement
– Waste of people who are are frustrated instead of empowering them to develop their potential to engage or those who are getting ill because of waste
– Waste in the Internet
– Waste because of failed projects and research
– Waste because of costs ….

Many may agree that some of us try our best and take some more environment friendly material. But reduction is not enough. Waste does not mean savings, but waste management needs innovation. It is about finding completely new ways of doing. Half way solutions are no solutions.

Can waste be avoided?
Probably, waste is originally not aimed to be waste. I mean, no one produces waste neither as a core product (excepted some criminals) nor as a secondary product with the intention to sell .
But whatever we plan, waste production is included. And often not mentioned at all. Ok, some people also care about this side effect, some laws have to be respected, but all in all the topic of creating waste is rarely in the focus of our activities.

Did you ever had a dedicated meeting around waste management when you worked out a project?
I do not refer particularly to those companies that have their business set up around waste, but all the other ones. Project description, activities list, monitoring, Risk management, resources and rules, communications and marketing – yes, these items are part of our planning and project management.
But what about waste management? I never had seen a chapter on that in a normal project plan. This is simply not sexy enough. Not relevant enough. No one makes a career if he/she focuses too much on the negative impact or the aspect of producing waste, simply because it is not our core business:
Marketers make cool ads, food producers focus on healthy nutrition, IT people want to get the best data connections and optimize soft- and hardware. Many people have even lost the overview – the waste that might be produced is not visible on site , far away, someone will care…

Maybe we have to include waste management as one of the main topics into all our project plans, teach at university to future project managers that this part is as important as cost calculation and to take it as an essential part of our business solutions. Before we start to implement and produce.
What do you think?

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