What is sustainable waste management?
Sustainable waste management seeks to conserve and protect our natural resources through systematic, achievable business practices. This will not only affect how items are treated at the ‘end’ of their life cycle, but how they are produced too. According to WRAP, 80% of environmental damage caused by waste can be avoided by a shift in thinking during production. This has found its way into regulation, with sustainable waste management the standard for the future.
Why is sustainable waste management important?
It matters to the Government.
Waste plays a critical role in achieving Government’s environmental objectives and commitments. This means we can expect increasingly strict regulations on what becomes waste and where it goes.
It matters to your customers.
Consumers are more concerned than ever with the environmental ethics of the companies they work with. This can be an important determining factor in whether you are awarded contracts – and affects your company’s competitiveness.
It matters to your company.
62% of executives see a sustainable strategy as fundamental to their competitiveness. (If this doesn’t ring true in your enterprise, think about it this way: It matters to your competition.) Sustainability will be the cornerstone of businesses of the future.
It matters to the environment.
We produce an inordinate amount of waste every day. It has long been acknowledged that the current rate of waste disposal is environmentally untenable. A shift in behaviour is essential for future generations.
What are the government’s aims?
As part of the 25 Year Environmental Plan and its strategic framework, Government is striving to achieve the following:
- Eliminate avoidable plastic waste
- Double resource productivity by 2050
- Do away with all avoidable waste by 2050
- See the end of food waste sent to landfill by 2030
- A total shift towards re-usable, recyclable, compostable plastic packaging by 2025
- A polluter pays principle, with a focus on impact over weight.
The Government is steadfast on the point of transforming the waste industry. This falls under these primary objectives:
- Minimise waste production
- Minimise the environmental effect of waste
- Derive the greatest value from all resources
Think about it this way. By establishing sustainable waste management systems now, you are future-proofing your business. By making plans and developing best practice now, you are working towards future regulatory compliance. The generation of avoidable waste will also become more and more costly for businesses of all sizes.
This stands to affect:
- Raw materials
- Waste generation
- Waste crime and fly-tipping
How to reduce waste in a business environment
The waste hierarchy is a great place to start when coming up with ways to keep waste to a minimum in a business environment. The waste hierarchy has also been incorporated into regulation, making it an effective guideline for sustainable waste management. Your business has a duty of care to minimise waste in terms of this framework.
This will require you to look at:
- The type of waste your organisation generates
- How waste is generated
- Whether there are any alternatives to the way it is disposed. Are there any potential avenues for re-use?
- Does your business sort its waste and recycle effectively?
- What are the incentives for sustainable waste management?
STEP 1. PREVENT
- Reduced raw materials at the production stage
- Shifted considerations around the type of materials used – moving away from hazardous materials and with a preference for re-usable products.
- Avoid single-use items
- Strive to make your business paperless
STEP 2. RE-USE
- Could your waste find new application or use elsewhere?
- This includes preparation for re-use – involving an assessment of whether the entire item or its components are fit for purpose.
RE-USABLE WASTE TIPS:
- Avoid single-use products and opt for re-fillable, re-usable items wherever possible.
- Re-purpose wherever possible. Be inventive and give new life to old stuff.
- Never use packaging once.
- Give real thought to everything you are going to throw away. Could that be of use to someone else? Consider donating to charity, upcycling, or selling things like office furniture and old equipment. The bin should be the last resort.
STEP 3. RECYCLE
- Processing waste products into a new substance or product.
- Paper, cardboard, plastic, glass, aluminium tins, and aluminium foil are some of the more common recycled materials.
- Dry mix or single stream options exist depending on your business needs.
- Look to use recycled products in the first place
- Dry mixed recycling requires you to separate your waste into the different recyclable categories. Try to avoid contamination as much as possible.
- Single stream recycling is sorted for you on your behalf – a great choice for busy businesses intent on effective recycling.
- Be aware of the types of plastics you use. Some plastics (like polystyrene) are harder to recycle than others. The most commonly recycled plastics are bottles.
- Clean your rubbish before you put it in the bin. This is especially the case with food packaging.
STEP 4. OTHER RECOVERY
- This includes anaerobic digestion, incineration, certain types of composting, energy and materials from waste.
- Energy from waste is growing in popularity, diverting waste from landfill. Returned to the grid, this is an exciting, renewable source of energy.
STEP 5. DISPOSAL
Where there is no other option, disposal will send waste (in most instances) to landfill.
What sustainable waste management can mean for your business
The cost of avoidable waste is on the rise. The more your business does to embrace the sustainable waste model, the more it will save.
There is evidence that businesses with a focus on sustainability tend to perform better.
Actively seeking environmental solutions is very satisfying. It also has the potential to affect your employees’ attitudes towards recycling, endowing them with a sense of responsibility for the environment.
Why should you partner with Smarter Business?
Smarter Business works alongside SMEs and large corporates to ensure they meet their waste responsibilities. Through expertise and specialist knowledge and experience, the waste team are on hand to help businesses:
- Enforce cost-effective waste management solutions
- Implement sustainable waste management practices
- Devise waste management strategies which affect your business competitiveness – and your bottom line.
- Work with a reliable supplier
- Enjoy the benefits of a customer-centred, professional team