Having been made aware of the huge cost to our oceans and natural world and the damage to our own health from plastic pollution, the demand from consumers to take action on plastic waste has reached record heights – and businesses are responding almost on a daily basis through pledges to cut plastic usage and through designing better products that considers ‘end of life’.
We know from our own work with businesses, that waste and recycling is invariably top of the list of concerns for people in the workplace when asked how would they like to take action to improve their sustainability. With plastic pollution now squarely in the spotlight, we think there’s never been a better time to reduce waste and improve recycling – not to mention repurposing – rates in your organisation.
Remember, taking a strategic approach to your waste can help reduce your business costs and may even generate an income through specific resource streams – all while engaging your employees around something they care about, and at the same time as helping your organisation meet its sustainability objectives.
Here are The Planet Mark’s five top tips to tackling plastic waste and increasing recycling in the workplace:
Check your bins – while in many businesses the aspiration is to reduce waste and recycle more, too often than not the bins will tell a different story. Make sure you have separate waste bins to capture different resource streams for recycling and repurposing. Ensure these are clearly labelled and positioned in appropriate locations. If your workplace is an office, ensure desk bins are removed as these encourage individuals to throw all of their waste into one bin without segregating. Remember, by creating systems that capture different resources, you will be able to measure your waste and thereby reduce it effectively. The Earth Day Network has created an handy Plastic Pollution Calculator to see how many plastic items you consume yearly. This will not only help lower your general waste removal costs, but ensure you are recycling all recyclable waste, including plastic that can be recycled. Taking this approach could even generate new income for your business through finding new uses within the business for specific resource streams (e.g. if you have a lot of food waste you could be generating energy from your waste through a nearby on onsite anaerobic digester, for example)
Take action on single-use plastic – we have become addicted to single-use plastic, but the frivolous use of plastic is a real scourge on our planet. Not only is it chocking our marine wildlife, but it is damaging human health too. Single-use plastic should therefore be tackled as a priority in the workplace, as well as the home. Make your workplace a plastic straw-free zone, whatever industry you operate in. Ban single-use plastic cups from your water fountains and ensure any food and beverage suppliers you use are addressing their single-use plastic packaging effectively. Engage your employees in action through workshops, green teams, events and pledges. Donation is an easy-to-use pledging platform which recently launched a Fantastic Unplastic pledging campaign.
Manage your supply chain – cutting your plastic usage and reducing your waste doesn’t stop at the door of your own operations. You need to ensure that suppliers you procure from are tackling the problem too. Major retailers, brand and plastic packaging suppliers are signing up to ambitious targets to eliminate unnecessary and problematic plastic and to use recycled plastic in their packaging where possible while ensuring all plastic packaging is practically recyclable (not just technically possible). Make sure your suppliers are not falling behind.
Talk to your waste management company – if you don’t know who your waste management supplier is, then you’re not tackling your waste and recycling appropriately. Your waste management company will not only collect your waste and recover your resources correctly, but it will provide you with the necessary data to enable you to measure your waste accurately – an essential step in managing and reducing your waste. They can also develop the right waste management strategy for your business. This will likely involve an audit to examine the way your waste is currently being managed and identify potential opportunities that are being missed. But waste management company’s can go much further than that. They can come up with innovative solutions to specific issues your organisation faces, and they can even help educate your employees through workshops and visits to specialist waste and recycling facilities. Planet Mark-certified Bywaters offers site visits to its Materials Recovery Facility in East London, for example.
Make a pledge – Setting targets can be a great way to take action on sustainability. So why not make a pledge to increase your recycling rates and materials recovery while reducing your plastic waste? If you have multiple offices or sites, you could even turn it into a competition to see which sites achieves the best results.