RIOS™: A Tool for the Recycling Industry

This week’s Industry Voices was written by George Hinkle, president, ARCOA Group.

Nearly two years ago, RIOS™ Executive Director Darrell Kendall shared his concern about environmental, social, and governance (ESG) rumblings, and the challenges that the recycling industry was beginning to hear related to acquisition and cost of insurance. He suggested that a management system like RIOS™ (the Recycling Industry Operating Standard), or ISO 14001 and ISO 45001, could provide companies and the industry with an opportunity to change the public narrative that recyclers are the problem. Fast forward to March 2022, and the challenges have only intensified. These challenges are now being mixed with a more aggressive Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that continues to incorrectly view the recycling industry as the problem.

More than 15 years ago, ISRI and its members had the foresight to seek a solution to the regulation management problem. Out of what was originally called SCRAP3, RIOS™ was born. Ahead of its time, RIOS™ was a risk-based system designed to help facilities organize, maintain, and understand all their compliance issues, while also improving efficiency, consistency, employee buy-in and a myriad of other benefits.

Data continues to verify what the originators and designers believed about the management system approach to environmental, health and safety (EHS), and quality issues. It works. Identifying and mitigating risk is looked upon favorably by the insurance industry—a sector whose job it is to tie risk to money and charge you accordingly. The genesis of the environmental justice movement wasn’t the presence of a particular industry in a certain area—it was born out of the challenges that come when pollution follows those industries. Demonstrating that a particular facility is measuring their impact, improving their performance through goal setting and execution, and having a clear understanding of what can be done to minimize impact is paramount to finding common ground and creating a positive relationship with the community. None of these resolutions can be done with a “seat of the pants” approach.

As a trade association, ISRI exists to identify challenges to industry success, help fight for favorable outcomes, and provide guidance on ways that companies and facilities can prepare for regulatory changes. ISRI has done that by providing the RIOS™ solution. Hundreds of facilities are living that reality every day, and they are benefiting from lower premiums, a more positive relationship with activists and regulators, and fewer hiring and retention issues. No, it’s not a silver bullet, but given the option I would rather walk into battle with a shield in hand.