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Posts Tagged ‘reduce reuse recycle’

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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One of the statements that we often hear people make is ‘I don’t create any waste’, and as much as it would great if this were true, it obviously isn’t otherwise we wouldn’t be in the situation that we find ourselves in today.  This statement is the result of people not understanding what waste really is and mistakenly thinking that generating waste is part of everyday life and something that is beyond our control. 

We all create waste (some more than others) but what we don’t always realise is the cumulative impact of our waste altogether.  If one person thinks as they put in the bin, ‘it’s only a half a loaf of bread’ here and ‘it’s only one glass bottle’ there then by the time everyone in Scotland thinks like that you are already talking about approximately 5 million half loaves of bread and 5 million glass bottles!

There are always steps we can take reduce this waste and ideally eliminate it all together.  Whether this is by reducing food waste, reducing the amount of packaging you purchase, reducing the amount of unwanted mail you receive through your door and by making sure that if the materials you do use can’t be reused, you recycle them at every opportunity. 

The power of campaigning is to bring individuals together to think as one and to take action.  A couple of excellent recent examples are Plastiki, the boat made from 12,500 plastic bottles, which completed its 8,000 mile journey by arriving in Sydney last week.  The purpose was to highlight the amount of plastic waste in the oceans; one area called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is thought to be about twice the size of Texas, while plastic waste is also estimated to kill 1.5 million marine animals each year.  At the other end of the scale pupils from a primary school in London built a 7ft paper tree using junk mail to highlight all the unwanted mail their families receive in the post.  As over a third of all direct mail is discarded unopened (Direct Mail Information Service 2006), we shouldn’t just accept this is the way it is but do something about it.  As you can see by joining together and looking at the bigger picture you get a greater sense of how one person, one family or one business can play their part.

Join forces and make yourself heard

If you’re having trouble convincing the decision makers in your workplace that you should be recycling, why noy try a bit of campaigning of your own?  You could ask colleagues to save up over the course of a week all of the materials they use which could be recycled so you have a visible picture of all the resources that are being wasted.

Whatever it is you decide to do, don’t be fooled into thinking that one person or one small business won’t make an impact or make a difference, as it most certainly will.

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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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Waste Hierarchy

Waste Hierarchy

At WAB we often bang on about Recycling. This is because one of our main functions funded by SG is to provide a working Business Recycling Directory.

However we mustn’t overlook the importance of other waste options, particularly Reduce and Reuse which, as you can see from the diagram above, are actually higher on the hierarchy and therefore preferable to recycling.

That being said, recycling is better than many other potential routes for the waste in your business, so it’s a hugely important part of the whole waste management spectrum.

Anyway, it’s an interesting diagram, if you like that sort of thing. I hope you find it useful.

*Update* We’ve received several requests to use this image and I just wanted to make clear that we are happy for people to use this image, which we produced and own the rights to, so long as you use it for the purposes of trying to reduce waste! Thanks for the interest.

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