For business owners and managers
Waste could cost businesses between five and 20 times more than they realise. Costs include materials, revenue, labour, energy and liability risks if waste management is not correctly handled.
Becoming a more environmentally-friendly business through better waste reduction does more than save money. It can also improve staff morale and make business more attractive to potential employees. Linking recognition and staff rewards to waste reduction can keep staff happy and save money.
Lead by example and your business will gain respect.
This means avoiding waste in the first place and taking a 'big picture' approach to waste minimisation. Waste reduction needs to be part of your business philosophy and staff should be encouraged and rewarded in their wastewise efforts.
Tips to get you started
- Where possible, encourage changes in your product design and business processes to avoid waste ... and save money.
- Treat unwanted, used and spent materials as assets.
- Work with management to establish 'aGREENments', where each work area agrees to an environmental initiative, such as duplex printing.
- Identify motivated individuals and create a 'green team'.
- Hold an initial focus group to discuss objectives then schedule monthly meetings to discuss initiatives, responsibilities, progress and problems.
- Promote, celebrate and reward people's ideas, contributions and waste reduction successes with certificates, small gifts, vouchers and time off.
- Redirect a percentage of savings from waste reduction initiatives to a fund or charity chosen by staff, such as the staff Christmas party.
- Keep up-to-date with the latest environmental practices and advances in your industry and share them with staff.
Green purchasing means choosing products less damaging to our environment and human health. Green products can be categorised by:
- recycled content, greenhouse friendly, water saving, energy efficient low toxicity, fuel efficient
- by buying green, especially recycled products, you'll be using your purchasing power to feed the green industry.
This means recycled products will become cheaper and more readily available. You are recycling effectively and closing the loop if you buy recycled products.
Green buying tips
- Buy in bulk to minimise waste packaging and return damaged materials instead of throwing them away.
- For products with a limited shelf life, buy only what you need.
- Ask your suppliers about the recycled content of their products and choose products that can be recycled.
- Maintain equipment and assets to avoid or delay the need for refurbishment or replacement - maintain first, refurbish second, replace last.
- Purchase refurbished, recycled and reconditioned products – you will not only save money but will help to support the recycling industry and the development of new markets for recycled products.
The New South Wales (NSW) Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water have some useful resources on purchasing and using office equipment more sustainably.
When you can't avoid waste altogether, aim to reduce it by cutting back on quantities and changing simple habits to make the most of your equipment and consumables.
- Email internal documents or place them in a share folder rather than printing copies.
- Aim for an electronic office.
- Advances in computer software make it easy to create documents that are encrypted, password protected and safe from unauthorised access or alteration.
- Electronic signatures are widely accepted and legally binding.
- Electronic files save floor and filing space.
- Use concise writing to make documents shorter.
- Reduce fonts and increase margins on documents to reduce the number of pages without affecting readability.
- Create PDF versions of documents and brochures to be downloaded from your website by clients rather than producing printed copies.
- Reduce print and copy paper.
- Default your printer to double-sided printing.
- Print two pages per sheet where possible.
- Use overhead projectors and whiteboards in meetings to reduce handouts.
- Use crockery instead of disposable cups and plates.
Reusing materials ensures you get double the value. Before you throw away something - even before you seek to recycle it - think if it could be used again in the same way, or for some other purpose.
- Collect used paper and reuse the blank side for note pads, or as draft paper in fax machines and copiers.
- Reuse envelopes by placing a label over the old address.
- Use reusable envelopes for interoffice mail. Window-faced envelopes can also be reused.
- Portable USB flash drives and portable hard discs are a great alternative to burning CDs and DVDs.
- Where possible, reuse items like containers, plastic bags, coffee mugs, crockery, cutlery, cloth towels and coffee filters.
- Use rechargeable batteries rather than single-use batteries.
- Install reusable towel units in bathrooms instead of using disposable paper.
Recycling means turning valuable materials or resources into the same thing, or something else that is useful. Depending on the workplace, recycling can be done at the desk or via centralised bins.
Be wary of contaminating recyclables as this will spoil the recycling effort. Contamination means putting anything in recycling bins which does not belong there – refer to the Waste reduction resources web page.
- Recycle office equipment by sending photocopier and printer cartridges and printer ribbons to a remanufacturing firm.
- Provide desktop recycling containers for employees and clearly label recycling bins near copiers, shipping and receiving areas and employee eating areas.
- A package designed to be recycled and made from recycled material is best.
- If you are recycling paper but not buying recycled content paper you are only doing half the job.
- Recycle for a cause - collect aluminium cans to give to the scouts to cash in, or milk bottle lids for local school fundraisers.
Note: Recycled paper is not suitable for long-term records (that need to be kept for at least ten years) or for documents destined for archives. The Queensland State Archives has a Guide to Paper Selection to cover various uses.
Want more information?
The NSW Department of Environment and Conservation has developed a comprehensive guide for building managers regarding waste reduction in office buildings.
Develop a green purchasing policy and make informed purchasing decisions – research and prioritise supplies and equipment with high use, reuse and 'end of life' recycling potential.
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