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The Waste Management Rat Race

June 09, 20228 min read

Discover why the traditional waste management business model creates a rat race and how to exit from this situation thanks to a marketing strategy based on a new business model.

Escape the rat race.

In recent years it seems to have become fashionable to talk about escaping the rat race.

There are hundreds of thousands of web pages and articles in every field that show you how to escape the rat race, but no one talks about how organizations frequently create rat race conditions.

Let me also point out that it’s quite natural.

Indeed companies are owned by people, and people standardize processes, roles, and activities, creating rat race circumstances.

But first, let me describe what the rat race is all about.

The finest definition I discovered on the internet was in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, which you can see in the image below.

An unpleasant life of people who have jobs that require them to work very hard in order to compete with others for money, power, status etc.

That’s the “actual” definition.

It’s powerful, and it seems to touch to all of us.

In fact, our education was entirely built on the concept of “working extremely hard” to achieve one’s goals.

But, believe it or not, the tale behind the use of the rat race is more informative than the dictionary description.

The first reference of the expression rat race was used in the 1930s during an aviation training. 

As stated by Popular Science magazine in 1941, “A rat race is … a simple game of “follow the leader.”” Or in other words, the expression meant that the trainee fighter pilot had to copy all the actions performed by the senior pilot.

A decade later, the term changed its original meaning.

Nowadays, the expression is more closely related to how we live our lives day by day. 

We don’t simply “follow the leaders”, we compete with them. 

We want to be like them. 

To have what they have and to eventually beat them in the game of resources.

Behind the rat race there are 3 motivators:

– Our Genes, yes the single genes that compose our body. Following what the Evolutionary Biologist Richard Dawkins said: the main goal of the body is to propagate copies of the genes which ride inside it. To do that our body follows 2 commands: survive and replicate.

– Universal Recognition, as the professor Yuval Noah Harari wrote in his book Sapiens “Money is the most universal and most efficient system of mutual trust ever devised”. Money is the tool used to gain universal recognition and for that reason the main goal is to gain more money to gain the possibility to show off more.

– Technological Advancement, yes that’s the third one. Indeed high-tech gadgets and the internet have far exceeded our expectations. These two innovations have allowed us to be “connected” like no other species.

In the beginning, we used the internet connection to send emails and communicate better. Now, we use it to showcase our self-worth and advertise our qualities to the world. All this, done with the underlying desire to feel more desirable to others (2nd motivation).

I know that you’re asking “how do these 3 motivators act in the waste management business model?”

That’s a great question.

The answer is quite simple: companies are created by humans.

But the real answer is much deeper.

I start from the first motivator: the genes.

The traditional waste management business model works based on the quantity of waste collected. To increase the quantity collected, it is necessary to increase the number of trucks, plants, and people to propagate it. In fact the main source of money for the business originates from the service of the waste collection (especially in MunicipalSolidWaste). 

The propagation of the business nurtures the second motivator: the Universal Recognition. Maybe it is not universal and it acts at a local level, anyway the impact of the propagation creates the need of being recognized. To demonstrate the impact, the company invests in new trucks, new plants, new TV shows and whatever is connected to show its greatness in the field. 

For that reason during the fair events of the field you can experience scenes that smell more like a multi-million dollar poker game in Las Vegas’ Casino than a visit to buy new equipment. There are bluffers, watchers, poors and winners.

And this second motivator moves directly to the third one: technological advancement.

Something that definitely puts your waste management company in the rat race.

If you consider the technological development that we had in the past 20 years and how it changed all the industries, you can easily understand that it’s not possible to follow the technological flow, and you cannot think that thanks to the application of the latest technological equipment your business will grow faster.

However if I’m here to talk about it there is a reason.

In fact, the technological advancements used by hundreds of companies in the fields to show up in the market, not considering that in that mode they are in the rat race losing the control of the company. A technological upgrade of the same equipment will be enough to put them out of business.

That’s the common situation.

For that reason a lot of waste management companies are suffering and are trying to survive until a giant company purchases them. 

The rat race business model works only for big companies, but for your small waste management company it doesn’t work.

If you are in the loop don’t worry.

In the next few lines I’ll show you how to exit applying a marketing strategy.

Yes because it’s possible to escape the rat race.

That’s something not conventional but it’s what helped our clients to save their company and transform it into something remunerative and helpful for the environment.

I showed you what generates the rat race, in humans and companies. Now I’ll show you how to escape it.

We start with the need for genes.

In the traditional waste management business model, the company survives only if the quantity of waste collected is increased. In the new business model that you should apply to escape the rat race the company survives selling the secondary raw materials originated from the waste collected and treated in its plant. 

That means that there are 2 factors to consider: 

– the first one are the waste producers (citizens, companies, etc); 

– the second one are the secondary raw materials purchasers (companies).

For that you should create a marketing plan that includes the education of both of them: waste producers and secondary raw materials purchasers.

Only by educating them about the value of their waste will you be able maximize the quantity of waste collected and you’ll offer the best quantity of secondary raw materials to your purchasers.

Education is not everything.

You need the creation of agreements between the secondary raw materials purchasers and your company. That will drive you in the creation of a business model based on the sales of the secondary raw materials.

For that reason (and mostly for the Planet) your company should incentivize the waste segregation and the creation of a compensation plan in joint venture with the municipality for all the citizens who will give you their waste segregated and cleaned.

This point is very important in the new waste management business model. In fact, if people don’t pay for their waste collection but are paid the quantity and quality of segregated waste grows. 

If the quality and quantity of waste collected grows, you are able to sell the secondary raw materials to a large number of secondary raw materials purchasers and your company will be able to exit from the rat race.

You might argue “It’s a different rat race but it’s a rat race”.

Well I like this objection.

Let me answer.

No, it’s not a different rat race.

In fact, in that case you are creating a virtuous circle for the company where, starting from the first motivator (genes), the propagation of your company is connected to the efficiency of your marketing and with the diffusion of your message in your municipality. 

In a phrase: it all starts with how many people you can involve to support your mission on both sides: collection and sales.

At the same time it puts your company out of the competition for the number of trucks, plants, people involved and technological equipment. Your competition will be totally based on the quantity of secondary raw materials sold, in the quantity of waste treated to obtain secondary raw materials and in how many tons of resources your company saved.

It’s another game.

I know that it sounds totally different from what you heard until today, but if you want to put you and your company out of the rat race that’s the only way.

If you want to know more, schedule a consultation with us by booking a discovery call here.

Be The Change


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Samuele Barrili

Samuele Barrili is a Waste Management Expert and Business Strategist. Born in Cagliari, Italy, Samuele began his career as a salesman in 2010. After earning a degree in Toxicological Chemistry at the University of Cagliari (Sardinia) and many masters in Waste Treatment, he combined his knowledge to define his mission: save the planet helping 6,000 waste management companies to continue to thrive. After nine years in the field, working as a sales and marketing manager for international firms in waste management, Samuele created M4W Marketing For Waste, the first growth agency focused on helping waste management companies. Marketing4Waste is the first service dedicated to waste management companies.

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