Caring for the environment and thinking about sustainability are nothing new — and massive progress has been made in these areas. People recycle much more than they used to and are making more informed choices in their day-to-day consumables.
What has seen a bigger shift in recent years is the expectation that companies follow suit. In fact, consumers are becoming more likely to purchase products and to use services from companies that promote themselves as green, manufacture sustainable products and have a sustainability plan in place. One area that companies, no matter their size, should address is waste management. This can include minimizing waste or reusing waste in a useful way that doesn’t put a strain on natural resources.
While some waste is unavoidable, it is still important to develop a plan. First, answer these questions:
- Which items tend to generate waste?
- Do you need to use as much waste as possible?
- What happens to the waste that is generated in waste management?
Knowing the answers can help in your company’s battle against waste. Additionally, these tips can help you embark on a more effective waste management plan:
Use your eyes. This sounds simple but is often overlooked. Look around your company sites. (This might require lengthy walks about larger waste management facilities.) Think about these queries:
- How full are bins?
- What goes in them on a regular basis?
- What is generating that waste? When are the bins emptied?
- How long do they sit full or partially full before they are emptied?
Having the answers to these questions can be useful when monitoring your company’s waste footprint.
Waste that has been stagnant for a long period of time could be damaging soil or the environment around it. The more information you have about the waste that is produced, the more effective your waste management plan will be.
Reduce and reuse. Completing an audit of waste is waste of time if you don’t act upon it. Instead, think of the ways that you can reduce and reuse things in your life:
- Where can you recycle more?
- Does your company have a recycling policy?
- Could have extra recycling bins on site result in more recycling?
- What waste products can be reused in a new or innovative way? For example, could old cooking oil be reused as truck fuel?
Find new sources. Your company might decide to change suppliers to a more environmentally friendly company whose products are comparable to the ones you’ve ordered for years. However, this can be a more sustainable way to ensure a good and effective supply chain without having to keep resorting to fossil fuels as supply.
Go public. Spread the word that your company is becoming more environmentally friendly in its approach. This starts with sharing the message across the company and then publicly, like on social media.
You don’t need to reveal your whole waste management plan, just the main points and headlines. Once your message is shared, it may be much more likely to be adhered to. And you might attract new business because of it.
Agree on in-house changes. A lot of the changes can be small and quite simple on their own, but when combined, can make a massive difference. Your waste management plan should clearly state such internal changes.
One example: Shifting to using only rechargeable batteries. Yes, there is an initial cost for charging devices, but you’ll soon make it up in the savings on buying new batteries. Another idea: If you have an in-house cafeteria or snack area, invest in reusable or biodegradable cutlery and plates, thus, reducing the unnecessary waste of polystyrene cartons, which are becoming a thing of the past.
“Does that need to be printed?” Asking this simple question often has the answer “no” attached to it. Going digital over paper for meeting agendas and pay slips can reduce paper waste.
Be systematic. It’s critical to have an organized and detailed waste management strategy. For example, when establishing an office recycling plan, such measures as paper recycling and using biodegradable products are only a part of what needs to be agreed upon. Careful planning and consideration should be given to the recycling site location — a central place for everyone to access easily is the ideal scenario but may be hard to find. Additionally, consider when and how recycling will be collected and disposed of. Will it be done in-house or outsourced?
Ultimately, the creation and implementation of a waste management plan rests with everyone. This cannot be a one-person mission: It is impossible for one person to maintain such a program without the support and involvement of colleagues — and even the community.
Children are learning about the importance of sustainability — and by involving local schools in their waste management plans, companies can demonstrate that sustainable measures are a life skill while giving a more community feel to the process, thus helping to make it a long-term message.