Recycling and Waste Management: Going Green In The Office
Did you know that 68% of all paper in UK offices is wasted?
Or that that average UK office worker produces as much as 500kg of waste in a year?
For businesses that want to become more environmentally conscious, it’s clearly important to embrace sustainable recycling and waste management practices to address these issues.
In this article, we’re going to look at why recycling and waste management are so important, uncover some of the main contributors to generating unnecessary office waste, and look at ways that you can start creating a greener office.
Why is recycling and waste management important?
Have you ever wondered what happens to your office waste once it’s been collected?
Any waste that isn’t recycled or disposed of sustainably will typically end up in landfill.
To help address this, a key objective for a lot of businesses is to implement strategies to try and reduce the amount of waste they produce.
Arguably, however, some of the most significant environmental issues occur when the wrong type of waste ends up in landfills, which can cause long-term pollution.
When the wrong type of waste ends up in landfills, it can influence the quality of air, water, and soil - disrupting local ecosystems, affecting local wildlife, and even leading to people suffering from respiratory problems.
Let’s take the example of plastic water bottles, which should typically be recycled. If these bottles are added to your ‘general waste’ and end up in a landfill, microplastics can be released into the environment as they slowly deteriorate and decompose over the next few hundred years.
Microplastics can be incredibly damaging to the environment. They are not only consumed by wildlife but also find their way into our own food chain and water supply. This poses significant health risks, as the long-term impacts of microplastic ingestion on human health are still being understood.
As another example, let’s assume that electronic waste and batteries end up in landfills instead of being recycled. Electronic devices can contain harmful chemicals and metals such as lead and mercury, which can make their way into the soil and groundwater and lead to soil contamination and water pollution.
Disposing of food waste and organic matter in landfills presents its own set of challenges. When organic waste decomposes in landfills, it leads to the production of methane which is a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. Composting food waste, rather than sending it to landfill, is an effective way to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Any company that is serious about adopting ethical and sustainable business practices should invest the time and effort into looking at the materials they use and ensuring the right recycling and waste management processes are in place.
Not only will this help your mission to become more sustainable, but it can also come with additional business benefits. When businesses start to scrutinise and improve their use of resources, it’s typical to uncover a lot of cost-saving opportunities.
But first of all, it's important to understand the most common types of waste produced in UK offices.
The most common types of waste produced in offices
Despite the rise of cloud-based project management systems and workspaces and an increasing number of meetings now happening digitally - paper waste is still a significant issue for businesses.
It’s actually estimated that the average office worker uses up to 45 sheets of paper every day.
Some of the key contributors to paper waste are:
- Printing documents unnecessarily
- Print documents ‘single-sided’ rather than double-sided.
- Printing emails and digital reports
- Printing errors and duplications
- Using paper hand towels in washrooms
Office paper recycling is one way to address this issue, but reducing the amount of paper used in the first place is a better way to ensure a green office.
Some businesses pride themselves on providing fresh fruit for employees, having a ‘fully stocked’ beer fridge or snack cupboard, or making sure there are enough biscuits for the boardroom and sandwiches for client meetings.
As great as these benefits might be for employees, it’s not without their downside, as food waste in offices primarily comes from over-purchasing for office events and meetings or daily supplies going out of date.
Another example of office waste is plastic waste, which includes items such as plastic water bottles and food packaging.
While most plastic waste is recyclable, it often mistakenly ends up in ‘general waste’ and makes its way to landfill.
Another common source of waste in offices is electronic equipment such as computers, monitors, printers, and photocopiers when they are replaced.
Any large electronic equipment and smaller devices that contain batteries need to be carefully disposed of by a waste management service.
How to address causes of waste in the office
When you understand the impact that office waste can have on the environment, it’s clear that conscientious businesses across all industries need to have a robust recycling and waste management strategy.
Luckily, there are a number of simple yet effective practices that can be adopted to help businesses with their office recycling and office waste management.
The further good news is that by integrating these practices in the workplace, businesses can not only help the environment but also keep offices clean and often find that they can save costs.
Reduce Paper Usage
Despite the digital revolution, paper usage in offices remains high.
Office paper recycling can help address this issue, but it's more effective to try and reduce paper usage by considering:
- Moving to digital documents, using solutions like PDFs and other digital formats reduces the need for physical paper.
- Transitioning to online payment services, eliminating the need for printed invoices and paper-based billing.
- Using email more and using physical mail only when absolutely necessary.
- Enforcing double-sided printing, reducing paper use by printing on both sides.
- Replacing paper towels in washrooms with air hand dryers.
Improving recycling facilities in the office
One of the biggest challenges in implementing sustainable business practices is getting the buy-in and engagement of employees.
To help ensure your recycling and waste management strategy is implemented effectively, consider an education programme about the importance of office recycling.
It's also important to make sure that you make things easy for employees, with designated recycling bins in all offices and communal areas to encourage sustainable behaviours.
Reducing the use of disposable items
Does your office still have disposable cups stacked next to the water cooler?
If so, getting rid of the disposables and encouraging employees to refill their own reusable drink bottles is an effective way of becoming greener in the office.
In situations where you can’t easily get away from disposable items (such as cups for customers in a waiting room), make sure you opt for materials that will easily biodegrade rather than plastic.
Improving inventory management
Another effective way to manage business waste is to evaluate your inventory management to try and prevent overstocking - running the risk of items having to be discarded when they go out of date or become obsolete.
Eliminating unnecessary departmental purchases
You’re also able to cut down on office waste by avoiding unnecessary departmental purchases.
Some businesses have an open ‘business account’ with stationery suppliers or even a business account on Amazon that employees are encouraged to order from.
Although this may reduce admin time, centralising the purchasing of common office supplies such as paper, stationery, and food items can prevent overbuying and reduce waste.
Disposing of hazardous materials properly
Most people wouldn’t consider batteries or electronic items to be ‘hazardous’ - but if they are disposed of in the wrong way, they can be.
Batteries are a common issue, with it being estimated that up to 92% of all lithium-ion batteries are disposed of incorrectly and end up in landfills.
As part of your business sustainability initiatives, it’s important to invest in education for employees on disposing of potentially hazardous items effectively.
Businesses should also seek the support of waste disposal specialists or recycling centres to ensure the safe disposal of these materials.
Adopting sustainable cleaning practices
It might surprise you to learn that opting for eco-friendly office cleaning methods is another effective way to reduce waste.
Green cleaning practices often require less water and fewer cleaning products, leading to reduced waste.
And as an added bonus, eco-friendly cleaning can also contribute to a healthier office environment as products don’t include harmful chemicals.
Want more information on how green cleaning can help your business become more sustainable?
If your business is interested in becoming more environmentally responsible, it’s important to implement sustainable practices such as effective recycling and waste management alongside complementary solutions like eco-friendly cleaning.
By partnering with Green Facilities for green office cleaning services, businesses can significantly reduce their environmental impact while enhancing office cleanliness.
Our commitment to eco-friendly products and techniques ensures that your office cleaning aligns with your sustainability goals.
We also understand that every business and office environment is unique. That's why we offer tailored solutions to meet your specific needs.
Our standards and processes are ISO certified, guaranteeing high-quality and consistent cleaning services, and our use of innovative approaches like the use of Oleonix delivers a more effective clean, saves time, and eliminates waste!
Need support with your waste management and recycling? We also have a network of partners to assist with efficient office waste management, helping you streamline your office recycling and disposal processes.
Ready to get started? Contact Green Facilities Management today.
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