The UK generates over 150 million tonnes of waste each year and it is estimated almost a fifth of that waste is generated by businesses. That’s over 30,000,000 tonnes of waste each year that could be wasted or enter landfill!
This raises questions about how businesses can improve their waste strategy and their environmental credentials overall.
The monetary cost of waste to UK companies should also serve as inspiration to act on it now. It has been estimated that the cost of waste for UK companies is 4 – 5% of turnover, when you factor in inefficiencies in raw material use, unnecessary use of energy and water, and poor waste disposal practices for products.
So, what can businesses do to reduce business waste?
1. Find out where waste comes from
Speak to employees about waste and take the time to understand the areas of your business where waste is generated, and resources wasted. Only then can you understand the true extent and cost of your waste.
2. Create a waste management plan
Once you know what kinds of waste your business generates and how much it generates, you can put in place measures to reduce waste. This guide from CIPS is a good starting point to help you develop a waste management strategy.
3. Have an employee training day
An office training day dedicated to waste and recycling is a great way to make recycling everyone’s business. It’s also important new employees are engaged early about recycling and waste to ensure everyone plays their part.
4. Use colour-coded bins
If your office has a kitchenette or diner, you can use separate bins for organic and non-organic waste to ensure what you recycle is sent to the right place. You can use colour codes for paper, tins and cans, plastics, textiles, food waste and electronics.
5. Put colour-coded bins everywhere
It isn’t enough to just have colour-coded bins in your kitchenette – you also need them in the workspace because people snack and drink at their desks. You will also need separate bins for ink cartridges, stationery and paper.
6. Remove personal bins
Personal bins are convenient but not great for recycling because they accumulate everything from banana skins to paper. By removing them, employees have no choice but to put their rubbish into a colour-coded recycling bin.
7. Recycle batteries
Batteries are recyclable but only if they are sent to the right place. Offices should have a dedicated collection point for old batteries, and these should be disposed of at the nearest Household Waste Recycling Centre. Alternatively, you can recycle them at a supermarket at their collection point. It’s completely free.
8. Use rechargeable batteries
If you get through a lot of AA, AAA, C, D and 9V batteries, you can slash the amount of battery waste you generate by using rechargeable batteries instead. Duracell and Panasonic Eneloop batteries come very highly rated.
9. Recycle electronics
Old printers, computers, keyboards, smartphones, tablets, cables, USB drives, televisions, projectors and servers can be recycled at a recycling centre for free. For cables, you should have a dedicated bin. You can have larger devices collected by your local council for a fee.
10. Give staff reusable bottles
You can cut down on a lot of plastic waste by giving staff reusable bottles. These can be plastic gym bottles or metal thermal bottles which also make a great little gift. For example, Chilly’s Bottles are ideal for cold and hot drinks.
11. Give staff reusable straws
You can buy reusable stainless steel straws that are hygienic and last indefinitely. Plastic straws tend to find their way into landfill, where they are destined to be buried forever, and oceans, where they damage marine life and ecosystems.
12. Give staff reusable shopping bags
Can’t rely on your employees to bring their own shopping bag to work? Then provide all employees with a reusable bag for life. This will leave no excuse for employee’s to pop to a shop at lunchtime and come back with a plastic bag.
13. Use water dispensers
Water dispensers hold a lot more water than single-use bottles and can slash the amount of plastic bottle waste generated by employees. You can also supply paper cups instead of plastic cups to make it even more eco-friendly.
14. Use recyclable packaging
If you ship products, you can replace plastic bubble wrap with paper bubble wrap and use paper packing and cardboard for almost everything. Even jiffy bags can be plastic free with a padded paper lining instead of a bubble wrap lining.
15. Go paperless
Businesses who rely on paper are not leveraging digital properly. From pay slips and invoices, to receipts, client contracts and NDAs, everything can be paperless. Even outdoor advertising can be paperless with digital billboards. According to statistics from The World Counts, 50% of business waste is paper waste.
16. Print double sided
If you must use paper for letters, you can easily reduce the amount of paper you use by printing double-sided. There are printers that specialise in this (Duplex printers) so you don’t need to physically flip the paper yourself.
17. Use recycled paper
Using 100% recycled office paper in your printers will slash your carbon footprint. Paper can be recycled around seven times, and it’s much more efficient to make new paper from recycled resources than it is from scratch.
18. Use cloud storage for files
There is no need to print and store physical files when you can get digital versions and store them in the cloud. Scan and take photos of paper documents and move these over to the cloud to banish your filing cabinet for good.
The British Government states that as a business you must “keep waste to a minimum by doing everything you reasonably can to prevent, reuse, recycle or recover waste.” They have a useful guidance page to help you here.
We’ve prepared a handy guide to renewables for business to help you slash your carbon footprint. It’s important to remember that recycling is just one way to make your business greener – our renewables guide lists several other ways.
Lastly, Green Choices has a useful guide for helping individuals reduce waste. Many of the initiatives listed can be applied to everyday life. You can share this with your employees to help them make smarter decisions outside of and at work.