Business waste accounts for around 25% of UK waste production. While this might not seem like a lot, business waste can contribute to the amount of waste left in landfills (over 38 million tonnes of landfill waste in 2020 was from businesses alone.
With consumers increasingly putting pressure on businesses of all sizes to do something about their environmental impact and implement greener strategies for how they operate, it makes sense from an ecological and sales perspective. 75% of millennials want a business they partner with to be eco-conscious and have sustainability values in place.
So with this in mind, what can you do as a small business to reduce waste and your environmental impact?
Address The Issue
First, before you do anything else, you need to address all the areas in your business that produce waste and look at your disposal methods. As a minimum, you will have some level of plastic and cardboard waste as well as general waste from daily activities such as food wrappers and drinks containers.
Once you know the type of waste you create, you can look at how you can reduce the volume or identify more sustainable disposal options.
A full waste audit can give you a clever idea of where you are now and the types of changes you can make for your business.
Assess Packaging Use
Most companies have packaging waste, typically in the form of plastic wraps and cardboard. For example, if you receive pallets of stock in a warehouse, they are likely shrink-wrapped to maintain structural integrity and provide stability and protection from damage while transporting. Products will also come in cardboard boxes too. While you cannot always control how other parties package their inventory, you can control how you dispose of it at your end. From using recycling services for all of your recyclable waste to reusing items that can be of value to your company to extend their lifespan and get more use from them before it gets discarded, look at how you use the waste you receive via third parties and make more sustainable options.
Also, take a look at your own packing use too. What materials are you using? Are you using the right size boxes for your needs, and are you packaging effectively and without surplus waste? Try to overhaul the design, use more eco-friendly options, or scale down the amount of packaging you are using to reduce consumption.
E-Waste & Equipment Maintenance
Many people think of waste as the type we mentioned in the above point, but businesses can also generate a lot of waste via machinery and electronics. Poorly serviced equipment or outdated technology can quickly build up in landfills. The UK generates the second-largest amount of e-waste in the world. While large amounts of e-waste are distributed to other countries to be recycled and repurposed, much of it is simply burnt.
Carrying out regular maintenance checks on all of your equipment using a third party like Wastekit can help you to minimise breakdowns and the number of parts used to help you keep using the machinery as long as possible while putting effective e-waste measures in place can ensure that any old or unused electronics are repurposed will reduce the UK’s massive landfill problem. Why not look to see if there are community initiatives where companies take unwanted electronics and make them suitable for children to use in schools or hand them out to vulnerable people or charities who might not otherwise have access to them?
Your employees must work with you to implement any changes or data output in place.so you need to get them onside with your plans and ask for their input, including your waste and controlling the level of your produce. This can be via additional training to help them work more efficiently to produce less waste or develop new techniques that can help them work cleaner. Your employees will be instrumental in how effective your plans will be, so you need to ensure everyone is on the same page. They are doing their best to reduce waste and follow any new producers you put in place for waste management.
Not only can you recycle as much as possible, but you can also aim to use recycled products to cut down on your environmental impact further. Switch to using products that have been recycled, such as packaging, paper, and even equipment, and purchase second-hand or refurbished items like office furniture and make sure you are aware of all of the recycling initiatives in your local area. For example, shrink wrap can easily be recycled by using specialist third-party companies, food waste can be composted, metals, cardboard paper, etc., can be sorting general waste and recycled separately, and you can reduce water consumption by recycling rainwater to use for flushing toilets, or cleaning external areas and watering plants, etc. While you will still be using the same type of supplies, you will be avoiding the process of generating new products for your use as they will have already been recycled.
Single-use items are prevalent in today’s society, and we have already seen the world collectively take a stand against things like single-use carrier bags and plastic straws. But this mindset can work well in business, and looking at your single-use consumption can help you cut waste and costs simultaneously. Your waste audit will have identified the types of waste you are producing, and looking at what waste is from single-use products can give you a starting point to make more sustainable options. From switching from bottled water to using a refillable water station, stopping using disposable cups, printer cartridges, and disposable cutlery and dinnerware, for example, you can make more sustainable changes and reduce your waste consumption.
Reducing waste in business doesn’t need to be overcomplicated. Start with the easier small things you can change right away, such as going paperless and stopping using disposable items, then look at the bigger picture and pay attention to the type of products you use, how you recycle your waste, and what happens to things when they leave your facility. This will help you make more informed choices and implement measures to control and reduce waste.