Reducing Business Waste In 2021: Top Tips

17th Mar 2021

With sustainability becoming increasingly important to how you operate your business, managing your business waste is more vital than ever. But as your company grows, inevitably, so does the amount of waste you produce.

Some industries naturally and inevitably produce more waste than others. For example, warehouses and supermarkets rely on packing materials to protect goods in transport while construction sites produce metal, concrete and plastic waste as a by-product of their work. The hospitality industry produces a lot of cardboard waste as well as takeaway cups, food containers, straws and napkins.

Fortunately, no matter what industry you’re in, these top tips will give you some guidance on where you’re producing the most waste and how to most effectively reduce your landfill contributions. 

Audit your waste

Your first step to reducing your waste costs is to find where the waste is coming from. Spend some time identifying what kinds of products are being discarded by your employees and patrons to identify where reductions can be made. Once you’ve identified your waste products, ask yourself whether you are able to switch to more recyclable alternatives. If you’re unable to find a good alternative, it may be time to overhaul your business operations to try and displace the wasteful practices.

One top tip to keep in mind when auditing your company’s waste is to speak to your employees. They will have first-hand experience of what they’re personally throwing out regularly and why. Perhaps there aren’t enough recycle bins, or the labels for these bins aren’t clear enough. No shame! It’s just about gathering honest feedback.

To start creating plans to reduce waste, introduce some friendly competition - perhaps in departments - to minimize waste and encourage more sustainable behaviour. Competition, (and even better – prizes!) can be a great motivator.

Bottled water

Easily one of the biggest sources of waste in almost any work environment is bottled water - in the UK, over 7.7 billion plastic water bottles are used a year.

If you’re in an office or internal workspace, providing your team with filters and glasses is an excellent way to cut down on this waste. If your team are field based or away from a water source for large parts of the day, give them reusable water bottles with built in water filters.

Cardboard

So what could be worse than bottled water? Perhaps surprisingly, the answer is cardboard. Though 84% of corrugated cardboard is recycled in the UK, other forms of cardboard have vastly lower rates.

There are still some areas of the country that will only recycle corrugated card, requiring other types to be lumped with regular waste collection and sent to landfill. Not only does this negatively affect the environment by contributing to landfill, but it can also make regular waste collection more expensive as cardboard can take up a lot of room in waste bins and ultimately require more frequent collections.

If possible, your company should switch to recyclable, corrugated waste to reduce your amount of waste going to landfill. You can take it one step further and use a baler to compact your corrugated card. You’ll be surprised at what a difference this makes to the amount of cardboard you are sending to landfill and out for recycling. By ensuring that you are filling your recycling bins to maximum capacity, you’ll also benefit from reduced bills as you’ll need less frequent pick-ups!

Paper

Though companies are using less and less paper these days, it can still account for a significant portion of business waste. Some 45% of used office paper ends up in landfill!

If you’re working in an office environment and produce a lot of paper waste, embrace moving to a more digital way of data storage. Consider what files or notes can be digitized – even if it means digging through a long abandoned filing cupboard! If possible, consider trialling a 100% paperless model to be as efficient as possible. If this isn’t achievable for your business and some documents need to be in paper format, print in a small, single-spaced font, using just blank ink and print every document double-sided.

It’s not just printed paperwork that contributes to paper waste, however. Unwanted mail can be a huge contributor. An easy solution to this issue is to stop the waste from arriving in the first place. Unsubscribe from any mailing list that isn’t wanted or necessary – and double check you don’t accidently subscribe to any in the future.

Food waste

Businesses such as restaurants or cafés are well aware of the amount of food waste they produce, but even office spaces produce food waste. Did you know that all types of food, including raw and cooked meat, cooking oil, baked goods, breads, fruit, vegetables and more can be recycled? Composting is a great method of recycling typical office organic waste such as that listed above, as well as tea bags, coffee grounds and fruit.

Companies with a large amount of food waste can look into donation. Many local farms offer food waste programs to feed livestock and will likely pick it up for you. If you’re in the hospitality space, there are apps that allow you to sell goods off at a very cheap rate to try and avoid food going to landfill. You could also donate your food to homeless shelters or food banks to help needy people in the community while also reducing your food waste.

Electronics

Lots of typical office equipment is sent to landfill that could have been recycled instead. For instance, printer cartridges can be easily refilled yourself – or even returned directly to the manufacturer through mail or drop-off depots. Switching to reusable batteries is another way of reusing commonly chucked material.  If you're in an office space or a work environment with lots of computers, screens or other electronics, there are programmes to recycle these items in a safe way, or they can be refurbished and sold on.

Hopefully, these steps should give you some guidance on how to reduce the amount of waste your business produces. You’ll find that the effort is more than rewarded, with lower overall costs and a more positive business image. 

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