The new year provides opportunities for us all to make a new start. After the festive period, during which we should have been able to relax and reflect, we hopefully arrived back to work this week energised, motivated and ready to face the challenges of the year ahead. This counts for senior management as much as junior staff and, as such, January is a good time for people within all levels of a business to think about the direction of the business and what we want to achieve in the year ahead.
One recurring issue, which puts almost constant pressure on the bottom line, is that of business waste. Not only does your business or organisation have to pay for any materials entering the workplace, it also has to pay for the disposal of the packaging and excess materials. It’s a double-edged sword which can be effectively blunted by reducing the materials entering your business thereby automatically eliminating the need for a disposal option.
No business needs to be told that buying and disposing of excess materials costs money and eats into profits. It’s basic common sense that if you pay for something, don’t use it and then have to pay for someone else to collect it you might be spending more than you need. However the excess isn’t always apparent without further investigation. Do you know where your excess is?
Solving this problem is potentially easier than it seems but does require buy-in from senior management. This is because they need to facilitate the work of others as the business attempts to discover which materials enter the workplace and how much waste each produces. It might be in the form of packaging, which for some industries (such as retail) creates large volumes of easily recyclable waste such as cardboard and plastic wrapping. It might be in the form of byproduct, which occurs once a material has been used for its intended purpose but where not all the materials can be used. In an office environment this might include the metal coil round the top of a notebook. In manufacturing it could be anything from heavy metals to prawn shells.
Once you have an idea of the materials you purchase and what proportion of them and their packaging ends up as waste and how much this costs you can calculate your baseline which you can then use to measure progress. It will also show which materials to prioritise, which may not be the ones you expect. For example you might find that packaging disposal costs for a material used in only small quantities is disproportionately high, especially if it is packaged in a material that can’t be easily recycled such as polystyrene.
If packaging forms a large part of your waste costs then there are various ways to minimise this:
- Order materials which you know have minimal packaging, or order in bulk if you have storage available.
- Write, phone or email all your suppliers and make them aware of your initiative. Ask them to minimise packaging.
- Return or reuse cardboard boxes where possible within the workplace. Ask staff if they can use them (for home removals etc.)
- Return wooden pallets.
- If possible switch from single-use to reusable packaging (as shown in these case studies).
If packaging is less of a problem than byproduct, it might be worth looking at potential uses for the byproduct. Our partner organisation, NISP, are experts in finding uses for “waste streams” within other businesses. These synergies help to reduce waste costs significantly. To contact NISP please visit their website.
If you have one waste resolution this year we recommend you make it “reduce, reuse and recycle”. If you want more advice on how to do this our website may be useful.