Master efficient, cost-effective and sustainable business waste management with our comprehensive guide. Turn your business into a waste management champion.
Whatever the size or nature of your business, you need to ensure that the waste that it produces is taken care of properly. When properly dealt with, effective business waste management is about much more than getting the waste off your premises as quickly and easily as possible or otherwise doing the bare minimum to fulfil your legal obligations. Effective waste management can protect biodiversity, natural resources and human life. It may even save you money, too.
Businesses can create a huge diversity of waste, and not all of it can or should be carted straight off to landfill. There are eight main types of waste that businesses create:
This type of waste cuts across every business, irrespective of what they do. It includes everyday rubbish produced by a business that cannot be recycled. Examples include lamination papers, polystyrene, contaminated packaging, napkins, food, wood, used tissue paper, and so on.
Food waste is produced from leftover food in most restaurants and other businesses. When discarded, it becomes business waste. It has been calculated that around one-third of all food for human consumption on earth is wasted, at an annual cost of just over £800bn.
This is uncontaminated waste that can be recycled, such as different types of paper, plastic bottles, food cans, cardboard, etc. Incorporating dry mixed recycling into your business is environmentally responsible and can save you money on waste disposal costs.
Glass waste is a particular issue because glass can be forgotten in comparison with plastics, even though it can have similarly bad environmental effects. Glass takes a long time to decompose and a lot of it finds its way into our waterways and oceans, but it is also recyclable.
This is paper document waste that has been shredded to preserve confidentiality and avoid the disclosure of certain information.
Examples are shredded client document information, personal employee information, and company financials. Many companies that generate a large amount of this type of waste, such as financial institutions, law firms and accountants, will already have shredded secure document waste that is dealt with separately.
This waste may contain toxic substances generated by industrial companies or businesses. These may be corrosive, flammable, explosive, or react when exposed to other materials. Some could be highly toxic to the environment, humans, animals, or plants. They may be toxic, poisonous or infectious, reactive, ignitable, or corrosive, and include antifreeze, diesel fuel, fuel oil, petroleum, paraffin, cleaning solvents, dry cleaning solutions, adhesive, oil, latex, lead paint, paint stripper, thinner, chemical fertiliser, fungicides, herbicides or pesticides.
This type of waste is any which poses a risk of infection, so it extends beyond medical institutions alone to others such as dentists and tattoo parlours. It includes swabs, bandages, needles, lancets, pipettes, scalpels, syringes, bodily fluids, excretions, drugs, etc. Discarded medicines can also be hazardous if not rendered safe. It is highly advisable to handle clinical waste with a high level of care because of the risk of infection.
All businesses produce sewage, whether through lavatories, kitchen areas, or dishwashers.
Both the environmental and economic impacts of improper waste management can be severe. Improper waste management processes directly affect the humans and animals in the environment, as well as our quality of water, soil, and air. The improper disposal of waste products like plastics, food waste, and chemicals causes soil and water contamination.
And bad waste management is bad for the economy. Clean-ups after accidents are extremely expensive, while poor land and air quality lower property values. Waste pollution can have a significant impact on the tourism potential of landscapes, beaches and waterways, while marine pollution also affects other economic activities such as shipping and fishing.
Most people now agree that action to tackle climate change is necessary. Environment conservation is a key benefit to all of us.
The law requires that your business comply with regulations relating to the safe disposal of your business waste, and the costs of failing to do so, both for your company’s bank balance and reputation, can be severe.
Most of the time, it isn’t that waste management doesn’t exist at all within companies, it’s that it’s inefficient. Effective waste management seeks to maximise all of your resources including your finances, and you may well save money as a result.
The financial benefits to your company can be both direct and indirect. By using your resources more efficiently you may be able to make further cost savings through spending less on the inventory that you need to keep your business going.
Public image and brand reputation mean more than anything these days, and one way to ensure that your organisation has an excellent public reputation is to be loudly and unashamedly proud of your green credentials.
There is every chance that your staff are already worrying about, and pivoting toward effective business waste management may have a significant positive effect on staff morale. In addition to this, steps that your company can take to improve its waste management will have a significant positive effect on the health of your company’s staff and local community.
Once you start thinking outside of the box, it’s possible to spark a wave of creative thinking and innovation across your company. Companies that don’t innovate are often doomed to fall into irrelevance. By thinking creatively about all of your business operations, you could unlock growth in areas you didn’t even expect.
The Circular Economy (CE) refers to a system in which materials and resources are conserved by forming a loop between entities belonging to the system. This could also mean reusing waste from a different industry to make new products, and it contrasts with a linear economy, in which entities interact in a chain with a beginning and end. In a linear economy, waste can be expected to be generated as the materials/resources move towards the end of their lifecycle. Various governments, including the EU and China, have already begun initiatives to promote the implementation of a CE, and participating in the three Rs of reducing, reusing, and recycling, is a great way to frame your changes.
The waste produced by your business will affect its local community, and caring about improving your waste management is a great way to show the local community that you care about it. You can find out about circular economy clubs in your local area here.
Effective business waste management is about keeping up with the times as much as anything else. Regulations are only likely to get tighter, and your company will be all the better for going beyond that minimum, because there will come a point at which a refusal to adapt could make your business unsustainable, in the long term.
There are many simple changes that you can make that will have a significant effect on the amount of waste that your company produces, but focus on those 3 Rs. Reduce, reuse, and recycle.
Replace disposable cups with reusable cups and bottles. Remove any unnecessary packaging from your products and try switching away from paper to digital in as many situations as you can. Check the government list of approved waste buyers to see if any of yours can be sold. Donating the money to a local charity would be a great way to build positive publicity and do something positive for your company’s local community.
Waste segregation is the most effective way to manage your recycling. Separating your recycling into separate bins improves recycling rates and allows you to potentially sell your waste. Common separate bins would be for cardboard, paper, glass, tin cans/aluminium, food, and most plastics. If items that could be recycled aren’t by your local authority, then you could pay for an approved waste contractor to collect them instead, but make sure you get a waste transfer note, should you choose to go down this route.
There are waste disposal regulations and compliance requirements for businesses which you have to comply with. You must keep waste to a minimum by doing everything you reasonably can to prevent, reuse, recycle or recover waste (in that order). And you have further responsibilities if you’re dealing with hazardous waste.
For each load of non-hazardous waste you move off your premises, you need a waste transfer note or a document with the same information, such as an invoice. You can also use a season ticket to cover multiple transfers of non-hazardous waste over a period of up to a year. This is sometimes called an ‘annual waste transfer note’. The full government guidelines can be found here. It is highly advisable to read them in full, even if you think some sections may not apply to you.
Choosing the right waste collection service is critical, if you don’t want to be paying more than you need for a service that may not even be suitable for you. Factors to consider include their reliability & experience, their environmental credentials and transparency, customer service and support, the services they offer and pricing.
Partnering with professional waste management companies can reap considerable benefits. You should be able to depend on their experience and expertise, while you can also rest assured that you’re complying with the latest standards and regulations because they’ll be keeping up to date with any changes and updates.
And should you wish to go further, there are more eco-friendly waste management practices that you can implement. Encouraging staff to compost the leftovers from their lunch could work wonders for the soil at your office while energy recovery, in which waste materials are converted into useable heat, electricity, or fuel through a variety of methods including combustion, gasification and anaerobic digestion, is an excellent method of avoiding landfills and lower greenhouse gas emissions.
Of course, the bottom line and cost-effectiveness are at the heart of effective and efficient waste management. Business waste management and disposal is expensive (some estimates put the average cost at around 4-10% of turnover), and with landfill taxes rising, it’s costly to ignore business waste as an area of potential saving.
Ways to make waste management cost-effective for your business:
An effective waste management plan informs how waste is produced while identifying areas of potential savings and ways to change. These can reduce the use of raw materials and increase the reuse of certain items to lower outlay.
Choose alternatives to landfilling by using methods that minimise the footprint of your waste or smooth out internal processes to make it as easy as possible to recycle more of your waste.
Recycle more and try to cut back on your use of materials.
Review your current waste management contract to see if it is still fit for purpose. It’s entirely possible that the finer details haven’t been scrutinised in quite some time.
Traditional Return on Investment calculations look at the financial return of an investment relative to the cost of that investment. While some sustainability initiatives can lend themselves to this calculation, many also have additional qualitative benefits that are tougher to quantify. Some of these benefits include improved organisational reputation (and as a result, increased trust from customers), enhanced branding, acquisition of new talent, and decreased risk, all of which can be the result of sustainability actions.
Begin by identifying concrete sustainability actions that can provide measurable results. Simple projects that have direct costs associated with them will lend themselves to a more traditional ROI calculation. For example, switching to an electronic document management system or moving to teleconferencing for a majority of business meetings both have costs that can be calculated relatively simply. Even conducting a month-long recycling challenge can directly be measured with a little tracking of before and after results. This will enable you to more easily calculate that straightforward sustainability ROI and build momentum for your sustainability initiatives in the long run.
Of course, your best-laid plans may come to nothing, should you not be able to bring your staff on this journey with you. The role of employees in successful waste management is critical. This is a job which is, unless you’re a sole trader, it’s pretty much impossible to do without buy-in from your employees.
The good news here is that buy-in doesn’t have to be difficult. The general public is more concerned about the environment than they have ever been before, so as long as you go about it the right way you’ll likely get an enthusiastic response.
Start by assessing your current position and establishing exactly what steps you need to take, then develop an action plan to get to that destination. You’ll need to provide adequate training and support. Training sessions covering the basics of waste management and recycling, such as the types of waste, the waste hierarchy, disposal methods, and segregation rules, will help get staff into the right mindset, while you should also do what you can to make it easy for them. Clear and visible signage and labels should be provided to indicate the proper use of waste bins, containers, and equipment. You may also wish to consider rewarding those staff who go above and beyond the call of duty in their efforts to help with effective waste management.
The following steps will allow you to create a tailored waste management plan which meets all the needs of your business:
Specify who is responsible for managing waste on site.
Establish your goals and objectives.
Estimate the waste types and amounts involved.
Set targets for reducing the amount of each waste sent to landfill.
Introduce recycling or reuse methods for each material.
Identify the waste destinations and transport modes, including what materials are being segregated on-site for reuse or recycling.
Track your progress.
Put in place any required special measures for material use and handling.
Create communication and training to support and encourage participation from all staff.
There are resources which can help you with all of this. Cascade offers a Waste Management Strategy Plan template (free with registration) to help you to create a plan for your business, while comparison sites such as SwitchPal can get you quotes from waste management companies which are tailored to your specific needs.
The future of business is green. That much we can already say with a degree of certainty. But at the same time, business waste isn’t the most glamorous of subjects, one that can be easily overlooked in the pressure cooker that is the modern working environment. But by engaging with it, it’s perfectly possible to engage with your company’s local community, build trust with both suppliers and customers, motivate your staff towards greater innovation, and even save your company some money in the bargain. The argument for modernising your waste management has never been clearer.
If you’re looking for (or want to switch) business waste services, we can help you to find the best commercial waste management service.
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