As you might expect, at Keep Scotland Beautiful we are keen to minimise our own environmental impact. We rent our office space, which limits what we can do but there are still lots ways for us to reduce, reuse and recycle our waste and keep energy bills to a minimum.
When we moved offices in 2009 we set up a new recycling service which potentially covers a wide range of our waste, from paper and cardboard to metal and plastics. A team of volunteer staff help to make sure the recycling bins are emptied into the large outside bin in time for collection.
But even with the best will in the world, it is difficult to make sure that all of our 100 staff always put their waste in the correct bin. We also know, from our work with businesses, that this is often the last major hurdle for other businesses trying to minimise their waste. Setting up recycling services is one thing but making sure they are used properly is quite another. There are several reasons why it happens but most boil down to one central issue: communication.
At a very basic level, staff need to know where to put their waste. For us, this meant putting up material specific posters at recycling points to highlight which materials can be recycled and which, unfortunately, can’t. You can produce your own posters using the completely free poster creator tool on our website (you need to register, which only takes a minute).
We also emailed staff to let them know that recycling points were available and where they were located.
However, that was only phase one. Some people still throw recyclable rubbish in the black-bagged bins which, in our case, gets sorted by the waste company but around 60% of it ends up in landfill. We know that this is also a problem for other businesses and for us, this led to phase 2: engagement.
Engagement is an active form of communication where we try to reach out to staff and show them what we want and why we want it. There are different ways to achieve this but it can be done via any communication channel available such as intranet, email, briefings, meetings, notice boards, phone calls etc. Any medium is suitable, provided it ends up with a positive change in behaviour (which you ideally will measure, to show improvement over time).
We recently ran a Recycling Slogan Competition in which we invited entries from any member of staff to help promote recycling in the office. The idea wasn’t really to find the best slogan, although some great entries were received, it was to engage staff in the process. By entering a competition where you could win a prize you are becoming part of the solution towards zero waste, whether you like it or not. We received entries from 11% of staff, including several from management. Overall it was successful with the following winning a small prize (plus the honour of being chosen):
Show Taste, Recycle Your Waste
We produced a shortlist from which the judge chose a winner (anonymously):
It’s got to be in it – just recycle bin it
See more than waste, Recycle
Don’t be a Chump, save me from the Dump!
Don’t throw me away – Help keep climate change at bay
What we want to see in KSB is all our staff, litter free!
Recycling is anything but a load of rubbish
All the shortlisted entrants were named in the final email which again helped with engagement.
As well as engaging staff it is also important to try to help them recycle in other ways. At Keep Scotland Beautiful we have removed desk bins for most staff and have removed the lids from the recycling bins, making it easier to use them.
We are also looking at ways to recycle the materials which we currently can’t recycle, like food waste. We want to get to the point where there is no reason to have a black-bagged bin. This will also involve talking to our recycling provider to ask them how they process certain materials and to double-check which plastics they can accept. Contamination can be a problem as well, so we need to check whether it is essential for all food residues to be wiped off or if the odd yoghurt smear is ok.
There are lots of ways to reduce, reuse and recycle in businesses but it is vital that the people working for the business join in. Without the help of staff, all the recycling points in the world aren’t going to make a difference but, with their help, anything is possible.