Penn State's ReDi Index ready to be global standard zero-waste measure

April 19, 2011

Penn State's new ReDi Index is poised to become the worldwide barometer of zero-waste efforts, in a similar manner to LEED measurement and certification for the green building industry, but on a universal scale.

Demonstrated by ReDi co-founder Al Matyasovsky in March at the International Waste and Technology Conference, held at Widener University outside Philadelphia, the ReDi Index hopes to become the national and global standard measure of sustainability-driven solid-waste efficiencies with a goal of zero waste. Matyasovsky, supervisor of Central Support Services in Penn State's Office of Physical Plant (OPP), explained that this two-number rating system indicates both the Response and Diversion (or ReDi) rates for an organization.

"The ReDi Index offers the first opportunity to quantify and compare data-driven claims of zero-waste operations at any location, whether a factory, retail operation, educational institution or even a single-family home," said Matyasovsky. "As far as I know, this is the first time any organized operation can receive a calculated summary of all its environmentally minded solid-waste efforts, as well as an apples-to-apples comparison of its practices against its peer organizations and, in fact, any other rating recorded in the ReDi Index."

To use the ReDi Index, an operations manager who collects measures of waste and recycled tonnage would input data into the online ReDi Index about each of that location's solid-waste-management processes, as well as the rate that each solid is diverted from a landfill. The resulting calculation gives an overall response rate and diversion rate, both expressed in percentages. The two numbers in combination illustrate an easy-to-understand solid-waste management success rate for executives, employees and consumers. Even single-family residences can apply the ReDi Index if homeowners separate and measure their volumes of each solid waste the household generates.

Penn State’s ReDi Index number is 88/59, meaning that 88 percent of its solid waste is addressed in some way -- through responses such as recycling, composting, reuse and conversion into energy -- and 59 percent is kept out of landfills.

The index also will give subscribers the opportunity to compare zero-waste efforts among several categories, such as size of organization and business category. This sorting feature will allow organizations the chance to compare their green waste-management initiatives head-to-head with peers in the marketplace. Furthermore, ReDi Index subscribers within a local proximity can view data from their participating institutional neighbors and can use listed contact information to seek out potential cost savings through sharing best practices and discussing waste-management collaborations.

Certification is also a component of the ReDi Index, since it computes best-practices ratings tiers using bronze, silver, gold and platinum certifications suitable for printable and digital display online.

The patent-pending ReDi Index was developed by Matyasovsky and Penn State colleagues Lloyd Rhoades, manager of OPP Central Services, Buildings and Grounds Division, and Brendan Bagley, OPP information technology consultant. Steve Maruszewski, assistant vice president of OPP, challenged Matyasovsky to find a way to bring Penn State’s operations closer to zero waste as part of the University’s priority toward increasing sustainability efforts. Matyasovsky looked for a measurement tool that could determine a rating for the University’s current practices and future goals. He couldn’t find one, so he set out to establish his own system. He soon realized that this void offered an opportunity to establish an index that could be applied in fields far beyond Penn State’s scope.

“Our goal for the ReDi Index is to see it become the worldwide standard of measure of zero-waste management,” he explained. “Right now, companies can claim that they operate on a zero-waste basis, but what ‘zero waste’ means to one company may not be the same definition at another. The ReDi Index not only calculates an easy-to-understand rating of how much a company responds to the waste it generates and how much it diverts from landfills, but it standardizes that measure so companies from any industry, located down the street and around the world, can see how their efforts stack up.”

Matyasovsky added that he hopes the comparison function of the ReDi Index will encourage businesses and organizations to improve their sustainable waste-management practices. He envisions being able to use the ReDi Index to acknowledge the top 10 zero-waste companies annually within every business and organizational sector.

Because the ReDi Index can be customized through a user’s addition of entries for specialized waste products like exotic plastics used in the health care sector, he believes future phases of the index could be used to measure the response-diversion rate of nuclear waste. In the meantime, however, he sees the ReDi Index as a green endeavor -- ecologically and economically speaking.

“The response rate tells an organization how well they are addressing their solid waste streams, or how effective their operations are,” said Matyasovsky. ‘The diversion rate tells the organization how educated their people are about managing the trash they create, and how much their non-response disposal behaviors may be costing the company in unnecessary landfill fees. So the ReDi Index can tell a company’s people how green they are behaving, and how changing their behaviors can save both their company -- and their environment – even more 'green.' ”

Explore further: Electronics waste an environmental test

More information: The ReDi Index is at online.

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