How Any Business Can Quickly and Easily Cut The Amount Of Waste It Produces.

Running almost any business is a demanding job, and requires far more time and resources than can simply be dedicated to the obvious tasks of attracting customers and overseeing its financial side.

These days, it isn’t enough for a business to simply be seen to serve the needs of its customers, and look after its suppliers – every firm also has to be seen as a responsible citizen, doing as much as possible to minimise any environmental impact its operations have on its neighbours, customers, suppliers – and the world at large.

That primarily includes cleaning up after itself, ensuring that the work it does and the products it makes, sells or distributes – and the processes involved in any of these – have as small an effect on the environment as possible.

And while this all sounds very laudable, it can be a major undertaking. So it certainly pays to keep control of the amount of waste produced day to day, as this will be a useful first step to raising and spreading awareness of the levels of unwanted materials left behind by your business simply doing its job.

The importance of recycling in the UK

Click on the image for the full infographic

Rubbish – some startling (and true) facts

Enough rubbish is produced in the UK to fill the 8,000-capacity Royal Albert Hall in London every two hours, while the amount of waste electronic equipment – such as computers – which Britons throw away each year is sufficient to fill another iconic London venue, Wembley Stadium, more than six times.

In this computer and mass communication age, there’s no escaping the fact that a great deal of this waste originates from these devices, and others associated with them, especially printers. A mind-boggling 65 million ink cartridges are used in the UK every year to help print all the documents we need.

Yet at present, government figures suggest that just 15 per cent – fewer than one in six – of those cartridges are re-used once their first reserves of ink have been exhausted, and that’s in spite of massive awareness campaigns mounted by the industry aimed at encouraging us to send our used cartridges back to be refilled.

Where does the onus for cutting waste lie?

Market research firm Mintel found in 2014 that more than half – 55 per cent – of people it questioned on the topic believed retailers, in particular, had a major role to play in driving efforts to cut waste, by cutting the amount of packaging used in the goods they sell.

So as far as the public is concerned, these businesses are perceived to be in a strong position to at least influence the amount resource used to package and present what they sell.

The easy steps – for businesses

In an attempt to initiate debate on the subject, Slingsby has made a series of suggestions for companies and other public and private bodies to help them cut the amount of stuff thrown away.

They include:

  • Giving workers desktop recycling containers so that collecting what they no longer use is less of a chore
  • Culling the contents of filing cabinets, and instead switching to electronic systems to organise documents
  • Switching to reusable and refillable ink cartridges, or using a supplier which does so
  • Choosing products and supplies with less packaging, or on which those protective outer layers can be easily recycled, and
  • Noting the instructions included with any new electrical or electronic equipment for whether, and how, the item can be recycled once it reaches the end of its current working life.

 

The payback

Undoubtedly one of the major reasons which has held back any drives to recycle and reuse materials where possible is that manufacturers are reluctant to admit what proportion, if any, of recycled materials, their products contain.

This is one instance where the print industry, otherwise seen widely as being rather old-fashioned, has taken a clear lead, and the production process has taken moves which have seen it incorporate large quantities of previously-used paper in producing new items. Indeed, so sophisticated and responsive has newspaper recycling become, that once it reaches a recycling plant, it takes just another seven days for paper to be re-purposed for use again.

It’s a sad fact that the true cost of getting rid of everything we throw away which isn’t re-used is hidden from us because it is part of the overall taxes we pay to local and central government. So unless some way is found of conveying that cost to us all – or, more pointedly, the savings which can be made by changing our habits – it could be difficult to get people to truly start to see recycling as second nature.

Giving people a real sense of what they stand to gain by changing their habits to encompass greater recycling is likely to be the surest way by which it can get everyone to see that it’s in their own interests to make such changes.

New Regulations

Recycling knowledge becomes ever more important in light of the new ‘Separate Collection Regulations’ that come into force in January 2015. This will require the ‘separate collection’ of paper, plastic, metals & glass for recycling and includes commercial as well as household waste. The new regulations will be enforced by The Environmental Agency with the purpose of increasing the quality of recycled materials by reducing contamination. The impact of this will improve the environment and help the economy.

For a handy ‘crib sheet’ containing a wealth of tips for getting people started with recycling, and how to show them the benefits it can produce, see here.

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