10 top tips on boosting your businesses recycling efforts.

As a business with a passion for improving our carbon footprint and our ambition to operate a carbon neutral business model, we understand that many businesses struggle with their office recycling initiatives. Recycling is not only an opportunity to do the right thing for the environment but if done well could reduce the waste you send to landfill to zero.

This may seem impossible when you realise that an office of 100 people produces on average 20 bags of waste a week. This fills one 1,100 litre waste bin a week. Typically for every one full bin of waste generated, 70 bins were generated upstream in making it.1

Over 90% of office waste can be recycled, so here are a ten tips to help your business reduce, reuse or recycle.

1. Audit your business.

Take a look around your building and evaluate the items that become waste. What consumables do you stock? Can you switch to compostable or at least recyclable products? Inkjet cartridges can often be sent to a charity recycling scheme. Where are the waste bins placed? Are they full prior to pick-up?

Full bins mean a decrease in the frequency of pick-ups, which will save your business money.

2. Local recycling waste contractor.

Find an appropriate local recycling waste contractor who will either collect the recycling from your offices, or from a recycling drop-off point, and deliver it to a recycling facility. There is a database of waste contractors across the UK or speak to your local authority to see if they can recommend a service.

Key things to consider to find the most appropriate service for you;

  • What materials will you be recycling?
  • Will your supplier definitely maintain your waste stream integrity and not just send to landfill?
  • Do they collect on demand or at regular points?
  • Can they collect or do you need to deliver to a drop-off point?
  • Can they cater for the amount of waste your business produces?

3. Reduce or reuse.

Since most office waste consists of paper, it’s worth tackling your paper consumption first as this will have the highest impact on you overall waste reduction. Small changes can have a big impact in reducing the amount of paper used such as setting up all printers on duplex (double sided) printing.

And with an estimated 30% of print jobs sent to the printer never being collected, setting up a system where the user has to activate the print job at the printer avoids this additional waste.

Once paper has been tackled have a look at other items of waste that could be reused or recycled – newspapers, shredded paper, cardboard, printer cartridges, tins, plastic bottles, batteries, electrical equipment. Explore ways to reduce consumption or reuse materials.

Can you replace any single use plastic with reusable containers?

As a business we are offering our clients a potato based mailing film which is home compostable as an alternative to the traditional polythene wrap, to help them reduce their use of plastic.

4. Invest in good bins and labelling.

To get the most out of your recycling scheme place bins in designated places, locating different bins close to where they are needed, such as confidential waste near Finance or plastic bottles, cans and tins in your kitchen. This is key to aiding the ease of recycling.

Ensure the recycling area’s are well communicated to staff and highly visible to help maximise use. Colour coding will also help people to use the right bins, so they don’t get contaminated with the wrong items. Place posters with pictures of what can be disposed and in which bin – as a useful guide for employees.

5. Remove personal bins.

Once you have established a main area recycling process and central bins are all in place, the next step is to remove personal bins from under desks and at workstations. The key here is to have a small number of centrally located general waste bins and a much higher ratio of recycling bins available around the office.

Initially, this may result in some complaints from employees but as long as you have clearly communicated the benefits of the new recycling system and made the recycling easy to use and accessible, then you should be able to overcome any objections.

6. Expand the recycling system gradually.

Start small and build up on that. So you’ve started with paper and card recycling as it is likely to be your highest volume waste product and the most visible. Next you can build in other materials; glass, plastics, fluorescent light bulbs, batteries, toners, food waste, furniture, IT equipment.

If you find that employee adoption rates of the new recycling system are low then as it is important that employees are engaged early, then perhaps an awareness day could help by providing engaging graphics that appeal to employee’s understanding, beliefs and habits around recycling and environmental issues. Focus on the financial and environmental costs associated with waste production and highlight the potential savings if everyone was on board.

7. Eliminate bottled water.

Ditch the bottles and plastic cups in favour of filters and glasses. Provide glasses or reusable bottles, and a filter in your company's break room. They will pay for themselves. It might be a nice touch to supply staff with branded reusable bottles.

bitmap1In the UK 7.7 billion plastic water bottles are used each year, with the average person in the UK now using 150 plastic water bottles every year. If just 1 in 10 Brits refilled just once a week, it would save around 340 million plastic bottles a year.2

8. Zero-to-landfill system.

Even with a comprehensive recycling system, you will still have residual general waste which gets sent to landfill every week. To eliminate this waste ensure that your supplier incinerates general waste, they will provide clear information on how they process your waste streams.

Research shows that the impacts from incineration are outweighed by the benefits in terms of electricity production and reduced landfill impacts.

A zero-to-landfill office provides a very powerful and compelling environmental commitment which the business can use to engage customers (win/retain business) and inspire staff (attain and retain talent).

9. Measure it.

You can’t assess your results if you have no measurement. Check your bill for the weight of your waste or ask your contractor to provide the weight.

Then check out the EPA's Waste Reduction Model "WARM" calculator, which allows you to calculate reduction in greenhouse gas emissions based on various waste reduction and diversion scenarios.

A business with 100 tons/year of waste that reduces by 15 percent saves 44 metric tons of carbon equivalent emissions. This equals a reduction by the amount emitted from over 18,000 gallons of gasoline.

10. Foster a green culture.

Recycling and reuse is a great start point towards a more sustainable business, but there are many more initiatives you can adopt.

  • Cycle to work scheme.
  • Charitable, environmental events staff can participate in such as beach cleans and hedgerow or kerbside litter picking.
  • Branded reusable water bottles or keep-cups will reduce plastic use.
  • Replace light bulbs with low energy LEDs.
  • Adopt electric or hybrid company car policy.
  • Purchase your energy from a green provider that supplier 100% renewable energy.
Karen Watts
Karen WattsGreen Champion & Senior Account Manager

Get in touch with Karen:

Karen Watts
Karen WattsGreen Champion & Senior Account Manager

Get in touch with Karen:

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