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Posts Tagged ‘Business Waste’

Roughly this time last year, our business blog started to talk about the concept of zero waste, and highlighted the opportunities that moving to a zero waste society can create for businesses across Scotland. As we reach the final stage of the transition period I want to follow on from where that blog left off and talk about the exciting opportunities that the Scottish Government’s Zero Waste Plan creates for businesses.

The Zero Waste Plan highlights how we all have an important part to play in creating a zero waste society. It outlines how there is a need to maximise resource efficiency by reusing and recycling more things more often and it shows the environmental and economic advantages that can be created by promoting a Greener Scotland. Sustainability focuses on meeting the needs of today without compromising the needs for future generations, and the Zero Waste Plan outlines how a win win scenario can be created for businesses that look to reduce their costs by becoming more resource efficient.

Recent research shows that if Scottish businesses put some simple waste reduction measures in place, then there is the potential for them to save about 1% of their annual turnover.  That would equate to over £2 billion if all of Scotland’s businesses took the same approach. Iain Gulland, director of Zero Waste Scotland, said: “Businesses must overcome the perception that going green adds cost – the opposite is true. Those companies that have addressed their environmental performance with even small changes have measured savings in their bottom line.

Zero Waste Scotland is the delivery body that has been put in place to help deliver the Zero Waste Plan and help promote waste reduction behaviour across Scotland. This provides a wide range of advice for a variety of different groups including communities, individuals and businesses. There is a vast quantity of advice and assistance available to those businesses that are looking to take initial steps in promoting resource efficiency, as well as for those who are progressing nicely along their journey towards a more sustainable business.

The new Zero Waste Scotland website is full of information for both large and small businesses looking to reduce their waste and use resources more efficiently. Don’t take my word for it, check it out yourself.

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The start of 2011 has seen panda – monium come to Scotland. I am not referring to any weather related issues that you usually see plastering the headlines at this time of year; I am in fact referring to the arrival of two giant pandas at Edinburgh Zoo.  Tain Tain and Yanguang together make a breeding pair of giant pandas that have been loaned to the zoo for ten years and, although they don’t know it themselves, highlight exciting ties between Scotland and China.

David Windmill, chief executive officer of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), which runs Edinburgh Zoo, said: “This is a landmark day for RZSS, Edinburgh Zoo, the UK and China.

“It represents the beginning of a programme of research, education and partnership and the project has huge benefit for the UK and Scotland, both in supporting giant panda conservation and in enhancing our programmes in education, science and conservation.”

Pandas were not the only topic of conversation as the Chinese vice premier made his four day state visit to the UK. Renewable energy was also discussed in great detail. The result of these talks was an exciting green energy deal initially worth £6.4 million, between a Sino-Scots company and a Dumfriesshire-based engineering firm for processing domestic waste into energy. SHBV of China intends to use Scottish Engineering technology to build a new facility converting domestic waste into energy in China.

Gasification is the process that is used to turn waste into energy. This process involves the controlled combustion of municipal waste at temperatures up to 1400 degrees Centigrade. Burning waste at these kind of temperatures creates a gas call Syngas that is then used to generate electricity.  Scotland opened its first waste gasification plant in 2009. This has the capability of dealing with 60,000 tonnes of hazardous and non hazardous waste and can generate 6.2MW of electricity that is exported to the national grid.

This recent Chinese tour has highlighted Scotland as leaders, not only in environmental conservation, but also in renewable energy and green business. It is important for Scottish businesses to continue to lead the way in green business practices, and Zero Waste Scotland are here to help achieve this as we continue to work towards a Zero Waste Society.

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The festive period can often be a time for overindulgence, and I am sure anyone who ventures anywhere near their local shops on the weekend before Christmas would agree with me. Overindulging every now and then is something that I think everyone will admit to doing, especially over Christmas when you might well have a large meal of roast turkey and all the trimmings. This is always a particularly enjoyable meal; however, if you think about the long term impacts of eating so much food in such a short space of time, you might actually stop and consider the benefits of reducing your consumption for that one meal. When you reduce your consumption, you can often end up having food left over that can then feed you for the next few days in the form of sandwiches or curry. Our Love Food Hate Waste campaign is able to provide you with some further ideas about what to do with any left over turkey, but the idea of using this food over a longer period of time shows a good example of increasing resource efficiency.

Promoting resource efficiency is something that is applicable to your business model as well as how you might choose to live your life because it can lead to cost savings. Resource efficiency is all about managing raw materials, energy and water in order to minimise waste and thereby reduce cost. Another reason why you would want to increase the resource efficiency of your business is because it can help increase the overall sustainability of your business. Not only does minimising waste output have significant environmental benefits, but there are also clear economic incentives as the costs associated with waste disposal will be minimised. Research has shown that there is the potential to save up to 4.5% of your annual turnover by reducing costs associated with landfill tax. Reducing the quantity of waste that your business generates can lead to increased business efficiencies as you gain a greater understanding of your business processes and this can give you a competitive advantage over your competitors.

There are clearly a number of advantages associated with improving resource efficiencies in business and I will now go on to explain how you can implement changes that will lead to improved resource efficiencies. The first thing that your organisation should do, is to undertake a waste review to see exactly where waste is being created in the first place, and therefore what actions can be taken to reduce this. These reviews can either be done internally, or you can call on organisations such as Zero Waste Scotland who are able to offer businesses of all sizes free advice. When making changes to your business it is important not only to involve your staff, and work with them, but also to consider your entire supply chain. This includes working with your suppliers and your customers so as to examine the true costs associated with waste, and also to help promote change amongst others. It is important to set realistic targets. Remember to start small and grow from there, it is worth remembering that there are numerous simple measures that you can implement before trying a large change. Many small successes are greater than one large project that perhaps does not work as well.

Over the festive period, there are a number of steps that businesses can take to improve their resource efficiencies. These can be simple steps such as anticipating that there might not be as many people in your workplace and therefore remember to get fewer supplies, particularly if the items have a short shelf life or these can be larger steps such as choosing to send out e-cards instead of cards. By examining what resources come into your workplace, it is possible to reduce what comes in and therefore create a more efficient, sustainable workplace and a more profitable new year.

I hope you have a very resourceful, Christmas and an efficient New Year.

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As a business you may feel that you don’t often get the opportunity to showcase and promote all your efforts in waste reduction.  But, making sure that your employees, customers and the wider public know what you are doing and how you are doing it, not only helps to ensures it’s continuing success, but generates a good reputation and publicity for your organisation too.

One way that you can do this, is to take part in this year’s European Week for Waste Reduction which takes place from the 20th-28th November.  Zero Waste Scotland are acting as the official organisers of the week in Scotland, which aims to raise awareness of ways to minimise our waste and encourage change in everyday behaviour in order to reduce the amount of waste produced across Europe.

You could choose to do an extension of a current waste reduction activity that you are already doing, or you could choose to do something completely different as well, and promote them both.  A European Award for the most outstanding and inspiring waste reduction event is also up for grabs!  Some examples of actions you could do include:

  • Measure food waste created in restaurants, canteens or kitchens and provide tips to staff and customers on how they can reduce their waste
  • Arrange a swap day for reusable items, or an office collection of materials such as household goods, clothes and bric-a-brac for reuse
  • Organise a best ‘waste free’ packed lunch competition
  • Run an office waste campaign, encouraging staff to take action to reduce their household waste
  • Run an office ‘best waste reduction idea’ competition

Whatever you decide to do here at Zero Waste Scotland we can provide support with communication materials, PR, event listings and material on waste reduction.

You will need to register your event by the 5th November, you can do this at www.wasteawarescotland.org.uk where you can also find out more information about the week.  If you have any questions about what’s involved you can also speak to my colleague Ylva Haglund on 01786 468 797, or email her at ylva.haglund@ksbscotland.org.uk

Last year we ran the pilot campaign and 33 actions took place in Scotland with a total of 14 countries and 2,500 actions taking place across Europe.  This year we are on track for even more actions, making the week bigger and better, so why not join in and be a part of this European wide activity!

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People are genuinely surprised when they realise that the UK lags behind the rest of Europe in how it deals with it’s waste, and now it seems that we can no longer hide the fact as we actually landfill two million tonnes more waste than any other EU country.

Because of this the Local Government Association (LGA) warns that UK landfill sites will be full in just 8 years unless major changes in recycling rates occur.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t really like the idea of living in a country that has been labelled a ‘dustbin’, so with this in mind it seems that the aims of the Scottish Government’s Zero Waste Plan can’t come soon enough.  I also don’t need to stress the significance of just how important the decision to include construction, commercial and industry waste is into the waste targets that have been set, as they are by far the biggest producers of waste in the UK.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom, and even though we’ve still got a long way to go, it’s encouraging that lots of businesses in Scotland are trying to do their bit, with a few already well on their way to meeting their own zero waste targets, (you can read about some case studies on our Waste Aware Business website). But on this recent estimate we can only succeed if all businesses play their part.

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It seems that many of us are, as each year British businesses landfill 165,000 tonnes of office furniture, of which at least 50% could be reused.

We all fancy a change every now and then, and as the product lifespan of furniture is estimated to be 9 to 12 years it can be quite a long wait to only replace it once it is absolutely no longer useable, but there are other options available instead of needlessly wasting thousands of tonnes of metal, wood, plastics and textiles.    

Here at Keep Scotland Beautiful, we moved offices 15 months ago and furnished our new offices nearly entirely with reused furniture.  This was approximately 80 desks and chairs, 40 desk pedestals, 20 cupboards, and an assortment of other cabinets and storage units.  Not only that, they took away our unwanted furniture to either be reused or remanufactured where possible, giving that a new lease of life as well.  Obviously using reused furniture saves you money, saves raw materials and energy, reduces waste to landfill and you still get ‘new’ furniture……well new to you anyway.

The Centre for Reuse and Remanufacture (CRR) have been working on an office furniture reuse study over the past year and one of the many elements they have looked into is the carbon impact of reusing furniture.  Even with remanufacturing a chair by having to replace the foam seat and arm rests reduces the carbon impact of the chair by 45%, a really significant saving.

Most office furniture manufacturers don’t offer a take back service and so reuse and remanufacture is often left to the third sector.  A couple of examples that have been brought to my attention who operate in Scotland are Green Works and WorkBack, they offer a range of services and also support the local community. So next time you fancy a change, remember to have a look and see what is out there, you might be surprised by what is on offer.

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Firstly, a big thanks to Joe for keeping us informed and entertained over the past 18 months or so, and we wish him good luck and all the best in his new post.  We won’t let him get away that easily though, so we’ll pay him a visit to see how he’s getting on at Going Carbon Neutral Stirling once he’s had time to settle in.  As for me, I’m going to try and not undo all of the good work that Joe has done, and in his last post he highlighted the fact that the Zero Waste Plan has just been launched, so this seems like an ideal topic for my first blog.

There’s been a lot of talk in the world of waste about the much anticipated Zero Waste Plan and if you’ve not had chance to read it yet (all 59 pages of it), I’ve picked out some salient points which could impact on you and how you run your business.

In brief the Zero Waste Plan sets the direction of the way forward for waste and resource management in Scotland over the next 10 years.  It aims to achieve a Scotland where waste is seen as a resource and everyone plays a role in reducing the demand on the Earth’s natural resources, reusing and recycling materials whenever and wherever possible, and then recovering resources once all of these options have been exhausted.  Scotland is now achieving a recycling and composting rate of 37%, almost double what it was 5 years ago and the plan aims to build on this success.

It all sounds good so far but as with everything the devil is in the detail and the following points bear particular significance to businesses:

  • The Municipal Sold Waste (MSW) target (which was largely household waste) of recycling and composting 70% of waste by 2025 and maximum 5% of waste to landfill now applies to all Scotland’s waste – household, construction, commercial and industry.
  • SEPA will produce a revised Waste Data Strategy outlining the steps and timescales for improving commercial and industrial waste data by the end of 2010.  The Waste Data Strategy will include making use of Regulations to be made under the Climate Change (Scotland) Act by October 2010, establishing a mandatory requirement for businesses receiving waste data requests from SEPA to complete them.
  • Separate collection for food waste from households and business sectors, such as commercial kitchens, hospitality sector, food retailers and manufacturers likely to be by 2013.
  • Separate collection for materials such as paper, cardboard, metal, plastics, textiles and glass from all sources likely to be by 2013.
  • Following the separate collections for materials there will be landfill bans on unsorted waste, with progressive bans on individual materials sent to landfill and a progressive limit of biodegradable content of waste that can be landfilled.
  • A carbon metric will be introduced to be used along side the current tonnage metric which will help prioritise the recycling of resources that offer greater environmental and climate change outcomes.  Although because of the lack of data concerning Commercial and Industrial waste this will not apply to this sector immediately, but likely to be for all waste streams by 2025.
  • Scottish Government will develop a Waste Prevention Programme in line with EU Waste Framework Directive by the end of 2010.
  • Zero Waste Scotland will develop and promote a sustainable procurement toolkit for use by public and private sector to encourage the purchase of products containing recycled content and minimise overall resource use.
  • Zero Waste Scotland will develop good practice commitments for resource management, collection and services provided to householders and businesses, with the aim to achieve consistent services to users.

As you can see it’s certainly an ambitious plan, but there’s not much point in having a plan if it doesn’t push the boundaries and strive to achieve the very best.  Obviously the long term target isn’t going to be reached overnight and separate recycling and composting targets for commercial and industrial waste streams will be developed, (once better data has been collected), acting as stepping stones for this long term goal. 

Separate collections of materials have been highlighted as a priority in order to increase the quality and quantity of the resources recycled and to maintain their value and generate market supply.  The example given in the plan illustrates how food waste can be treated using a biological process, such as anaerobic digestion to produce energy for local homes.

Looking at the Plan in terms of the waste hierarchy (reduce, reuse, recycle, recovery) it’s good to see that waste prevention is at last getting the attention it deserves.  It is always significantly better to reduce and reuse materials, as this cuts down on the amount of raw materials being used, and recycling still requires energy, so it will be interesting to see what the Waste Prevention Programme delivers at the end of this year.

As a business now is an ideal time, if you are not already doing so, to move towards a ‘zero waste’ way of thinking, so that when the short term targets are introduced you are ideally placed to help Scotland achieve them.  Using resources more sustainably and minimising your waste can also help you to reduce cost, increase profit and gain a competitive advantage. 

Why not complete an internal audit of your business, so you can see if there are any areas where you can design out waste altogether, perhaps by removing the plastic cups from the water cooler so that people have to use their own cups and glasses?  Could you use reusable materials instead of disposable ones, such as washable napkins instead of paper serviettes?  Or could another local business, voluntary group etc. make use of any materials that you produce as a by-product, such as cardboard boxes?  These are only simple examples but by thinking more creatively and looking at each of these steps you can reduce your costs at both the purchasing and disposing ends of your business.  The increase in landfill tax is also an issue to bear in mind, currently it is £48 per tonne of waste and this is set to increase by £8 a year until 2013 when it will be £72 per tonne.  This is a big expense for any business and another good incentive to move towards zero waste sooner, rather than later.

With the development of the Zero Waste Scotland procurement toolkit, and the good practice commitments for waste services, it’s reassuring to know that you will not be left to tackle these issues alone.  Many of the comments we hear concern the inconsistency of services available so hopefully these commitments will go some way to providing support for businesses and alleviating these problems.

In the meantime, don’t forget you can look at our Business Recycling Directory to find your local services and the Green Business Partnership can provide small to medium sized businesses with free and subsidised assistance on how to become more green and maximise the business benefits of doing so.  Envirowise also offers free and independent support to businesses helping you to become more resource efficient and save money.   With all of this help out there, what are you waiting for!?

Also, if you have any of your own ideas on how to reduce, reuse or recycle waste and examples of things you have done that have worked, or even those that haven’t worked so well, why don’t you let us know so that we can pass them on? (See, we’re even into reusing ideas!).

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