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Zero Waste Office

As part of learning about how the 3Rs can be implemented in companies, have now helped a some companies begin their journey to zero waste as well as been involved with sustainability teams with Corporates.

Since China banned the import of various recyclables, there have been damming reports around the world at how Recycling really needs to be a small part of the conservation on resources instead of the major role it currently takes in many economies and we all need to be part of Reduce Reduce Reduce.

If you have time, this is a great post that summarises up to date what have also been finding with our recycling economy:

china ban

https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/health-environment/article/2164719/chinas-waste-ban-has-rocked-recycling-world-and

Thus, would like to share with you what I’ve learned so far about helping companies become zero waste, so that others can begin to progress and reduce waste at their own company.

The first is to gather a team from different areas and take a bird’s eye view with an audit & current behaviour so there is a baseline. For example:

1. Quantify water and energy usage

Quantify and cost how much water and energy is used per month and what are the current systems in place.  e.g.

a) Facilities using it (these can often be broken down further such as for water – toilets / taps / kitchen). e.g. In many hotels, the tap water has been seen to be left on to speed up washing of food products or for washing up; In companies toilets have large 5 litre cisterns which is all used to flush the toilet.

b) What type of bulbs are being used?

c) Are machines left on after work hours?

2. Define the specific Office waste that is being generated.

Quantify and cost the quick used office stuff costs / month. e.g.

a) Stationery
b) Office cleaning stuff such as bottles / tins from cleaning chemicals
c) Bags for bins
d) And other stationary items deemed necessary such as Pens, Staples, post it notes

You can find out a lot of these quickly from admin.

3) Quantify the general waste that is going into the bins e.g.

It’s easy to gather a quick review by opening the bags that are going out each day + ask the cleaners how many bags of general waste is generated. e.g. that are typically seen:

a) Food waste
b) Tea bags / coffee grounds
c) Coffee cups
d) Crisp packets
e) Take away containers
f) Paper waste

Next Step

Get your team engaged to discuss how to reduce the items you have identified.

Here are some suggestions to get you started:

1. To reduce water and energy

a) there are technologies in place such as using LEDs (one company found they saved the company thousands when they switched to LEDs); look at leasing light bulbs (Philips offer a solution); computers can be automatically shut down after a time period of non-usage (group policies); lights can automatically shut down after a certain time.

b) make people responsible for doing tasks such as switching off the lights before they leave the office ; shut down their computers at the end of the day or before the weekend. People do need reminding.

c) toilets / sinks there are devices to reduce water consumption or again make people more mindful

2. To reduce specific office waste

a) Can your office go paperless? This will reduce the need for most stationery

b) Finance will still be receiving and might have to deal with paper so instead of staples, consider paper clips; Instead of pens, consider pencils; Use paper scraps for scribbling ideas or use wipe boards

c) In meetings consider electronic white boards instead of flip charts

d) There are now shops that supply cleaning products and you refill your own bottles. Do note suppliers will find this a hard area for corporates if they are trying to maintain an ISO standard. Perhaps the ISO standard needs to change to be more sustainable!

3. To reduce general waste

This is probably the hardest area as there are people who like convenience even if it is hurting the environment and our resources. If going green is inconvenient or a chore, there are many people who would prefer to look the other way or blame the government or supermarkets or some thing else for not having to change. You can present the facts and look at ways to make it easier for everyone to come on board.

a) Consider a food waste bin and if your food waste is significant, consider a biodigester / dehydrator.  These come in all different sizes. Food waste can be composted and can be used in a garden or perhaps create a company garden.

b) Watch out for tea bags as the bags themselves have typically been made from nylon fibres (plastic). Source tea bags that have compostable bags or use loose tea and supply decanters. Popping up around the world are places where you can bring your own containers to purchase the office food supplies! If you are ordering vast quantities request the company supply the items in reusable containers that can be returned to them.

c) Encourage the company to BYOR (Bring Your Own Reusable) bottle / thermal mug (which can be used for any liquid) / cutlery / plates / bags and identify places that accept BYOR. You might find creating pledges or departmental competition for how many less bags / less weight of rubbish are generated by the end of the week with a team treat to help.

d) Consider in your team weekly meeting to bring up one sustainability item twice a month that can be tackled. You can then begin to understand people’s concerns.

Hope this post has helped with suggestions to get you started and please do add a comment with what has worked for you to change behaviour in the office environment.

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