11/30/2016 09:54 am ET Updated Dec 01, 2017

Sustainable Logistics for Custom Waste Solutions

Going paperless has been a trend across industries for the last several years. A move to increase efficiency and keep up with changing systems, digitalization streamlines information and addresses environmental concerns. However, going paperless is still very much in the future at many businesses due to the fact that sweeping infrastructure changes and comprehensive iterations to existing document management solutions (DMS) pose challenges of security and compliance, two of the most important considerations when going paperless.

These considerations are why the shredding industry is a multi-million dollar business. Shredding companies offer legislative compliance for businesses and institutions obliged to protect the private information under their control. In a highly competitive marketplace, well-established shredding companies face the constant challenge of not only offering top-of-the-line service, but finding new ways to add value for their customers.

Some shredding companies are expanding their portfolio of services to include a turn-key waste solution for clients to diversify their offerings and scale for growth. Through my company TerraCycle's highly customizable Zero Waste Box platform, major paper shredders across the country are bringing their customers the ability to recycle more than 300 categories of waste. The core benefit of this program mechanic is that TerraCycle makes it accessible for these shredding companies to offer new solutions to their clients while not increasing costs. This is possible because they are 'piggy-backing' on their own logistics.

With the traditional model, an individual, organization or business purchases one or many Zero Waste Boxes, priced by size and degree of material separation; this cost pays for the actual separation and processing of the recycled materials, as well as the cost associated with shipping.

When a shredding company works with TerraCycle to offer Zero Waste Boxes as an add-on service to customers, the shipping cost back is offset by the logistics used to handle the recycling boxes, which are already in place as an aspect of their shredding service. The shredder sets up and collects the Zero Waste Box in their clients' place of business, taking over the shipping and transportation from FedEx or UPS.

At the point where shredders have accumulated a large amount of boxes and are ready to return them, some will send them back to TerraCycle via freight, while more local companies may choose to deliver the boxes directly to the TerraCycle warehouse using their own box trucks; both methods are less expensive (and more environmentally sound) than shipping through an external delivery company.

Shredding isn't going anywhere, and staying competitive within the marketplace by offering a service that other companies do not is advantageous to both shredding companies and their clients. Recycling is an environmental business practice in and of itself. Coupling these circular systems with sustainable logistics that provide concurrent purpose is not only killing two birds with one stone and conserving valuable resources, it's highly profitable.

In a similar manner that recycling is one of the most accessible and easily understood aspects of environmentalism, doing away with paper is an aspect of waste reduction perceived to be a sustainable and entirely doable practice. But until a total conversion to digital has come to pass, shredding companies will remain an integral part of keeping our information safe. By investing in another line of business that solves for a negative value commodity (that which people pay to have taken away), shredders and other logistics experts are able to sustainably diversify their offerings at low risk, and pass these benefits to customers and clients.