Management guru Peter Drucker has been credited with the axiom “You can’t manage what you don’t measure”. The corollary, of course, is that we tend to manage what we measure…but what if we’re measuring the wrong things?

“Are we measuring the right things?” is central to Maryland Governor Hogan’s 2017 Executive Order that among other recommendations, focuses on tracking complete materials management data and optimal use of each resource — even if it does not increase the recycling rate — to protect the environment. And as the concept of sustainable materials management gains traction in the waste and recycling communities we’re seeing more initiatives to revise metrics away from outcome-based metrics towards impact-based metrics.

On this webinar, hear Dr. Tim Townsend, the Jones Edmunds Professor of Environmental Engineering at the University of Florida tackle the question, “How do we move away from focusing solely on tons recovered and measure the wider environmental benefits that come through considering the entire life cycle of the materials we use?” Townsend suggests the answer may be to stick with the tried and true concept of a recycling rate but to calculate such a figure in a new way. Paralleling efforts in states like Oregon, he recommends that “instead of focusing solely on tons, [we should] try to come up with an equivalent way of looking at the recycling percentage that is based on [reductions in] greenhouse gas emissions or energy savings.” These metrics also mirror EPA’s emphasis on source reduction, reuse and prevention as discussed in the agency’s Sustainable Materials Management Program Strategic Plan.

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