How many of you have broken out into a small sweat at work when faced with the collection of recycling bins?
With the all important decision of ‘which bin does it go in’ and the threat of death by public hanging, should the wrong bin be selected? Maybe where you work isn’t as harsh with their punishments (surely hanging was made illegal a while ago now?!) but the topic of waste within businesses is one that brings disappointing sighs from all but the avid recycler.
Here I am going to take you through the wonderful world of waste, how it can be easily managed within your organisation and the importance of doing so. With the Government’s ambitious aim of a ‘Zero Waste Economy’ rooted firmly in policies and legislation, there's definitely no getting around not taking responsibility for your rubbish, be it personally or at work.
Businesses have a large part to play in the UK’s waste stream. In 2009 an estimated 48 million tonnes of business waste was produced, almost twice the amount collected from households. Legal responsibilities ensure businesses produce, store, transport and dispose of their waste without harming the environment. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
What is business waste?
Business waste includes any waste that comes from:
- any commercial activity – including any you run from your home
How to manage waste within your organisation
It is important to follow the ethos of the following steps in order to effectively manage waste in all walks of life. They're known as the ‘waste hierarchy’ as shown below:
That’s all very well but how about some actions you can take within the workplace in order to follow this hierarchy? One of the easiest and simplest things you can do, if you haven’t done so already, is organise official recycling bins for employees to recycle appropriate waste, such as paper, metal and plastic. Signs will help staff recycle properly and a little encouragement wouldn’t go amiss either! Recycling old products into new ones saves raw materials and energy, so everyone’s a winner.
Another shuffle in the right direction would be to have a compost bin for all employees' uncooked food waste – everything from banana skins to tea bags can rot away to create a lovely substance to help grow plants or vegetables, rather than being chucked in the general rubbish bin to wallow in landfill up and down the country. Go one step further and create a small garden in the grounds at work (or window plants, if there's no outside space) to use the compost you've made.
Creating a marker improvement
It can also be said that it would be useful to know actually how much waste is produced by the company, either by investigating yourself or undertaking a waste audit. Having an idea of figures will help in the long run, as there is then a marker to work from.
Once you're aware of how much is produced on a regular basis, a handy thing to create could be a ‘waste action plan’ – develop a plan of how to tackle waste, especially if it's particularly high, and track your progress with regular measuring and monitoring.
Challenge your team
For the more hardcore recyclers out there, a challenging yet fun idea could be to have a week within the company where people try to achieve zero waste – it’s much harder than it sounds. You could even run it as a competition, with a prize for the employee who produces the least waste.
A challenge pitching each employee against each other is sure to raise employee morale and bring out the fighting spirit, for the good of the environment!
For some inspiration take a look at this blog following a zero waste challenge, featuring hints and tips of how to be truly waste-free.
The bigger picture
Most importantly, if small behaviour changes can be instilled in your employees that they then continue at home, this is going to have an even more positive effect on the environment. These aren't huge lifestyle adjustments I've described; they're simple, effective ways to manage waste within the work environment.
The list isn't exhaustive either, there are countless other ways you could make a difference - all you need to do is look!
Why is managing waste important?
What’s the point of all this talk about rubbish? In short, because it's a legal requirement - waste legislation for businesses concerning licences, storage, moving waste and disposal warrant a blog on their own. Benefits to businesses of managing their waste effectively range from cutting costs to meeting customer demand for sustainable practise.
Equally as significant is that we need to reduce the impact our millions of tonnes of waste is having on the environment. The UK is rapidly running out of landfill sites, with 57 million tonnes of rubbish being disposed into them each year.
Given the remaining capacity, there's less than 10 years left before we have nowhere to put our waste. So, to avoid us drowning in our own waste and avoid hefty fines from the EU, there's no time like the present to get to grips with our rubbish.
So there you have it, a whistle-stop tour of quick and easy solutions to waste management within your business. Having hopefully been inspired to have a think about how much rubbish you produce, I'd love to hear how you get on tackling your ‘rubbish’ problems!
For more information on the Government’s approach to waste management, take a look at the Defra website.