Waste management

Every year, the world generates 1.3 billion tonnes of solid waste and all the current projections indicate this is going to increase. In less than five years’ time it total food waste could be 2.2 billion tonnes.

Matthew Sumners
recycling green glass bottles
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If food waste were a country, it would be the 3rd highest emitter of carbon behind the US and China. Waste is a huge global problem, and it goes without saying, we need to drive good practice in firstly minimising waste and waste disposal, not only at a personal level but at a business level too.

It is common knowledge that the waste that is being generated is proven to be detrimental to our environment and ourselves. We are generating too much waste that we cannot process in a sustainable way. It is detrimental to soil degradation, water contamination, air pollution and a plethora of other issues, which impacts on ecosystems and our own health and wellbeing. Action needs to be taken immediately, and we have the tools and ideas to make this change happen now. 2020 to 2030 is the most important 10 years for us and our planet. The Decade of Action calls for accelerating sustainable solutions to tackle the climate emergency and biodiversity breakdown. If we take action now, we will do much to avert the unfolding impact of climate change and create a thriving planet that is fit for us and our future generations.

Recently The Planet Mark showcased best practice as we heard from some great speakers in our most recent Recycling: What Happens to My Waste? webinar. Both speakers Edward Van Reenen, Associate Director of Sustainability and Environment at Bywaters and Zinnia Harris, Marketing Director at First Mile highlighted some great points about the importance of waste management and ways to maximise recycling capabilities.

Firstly, you need to know what type of waste you or your business is generating. The important question here is to understand the materials which you are disposing of and then you can understand what you need to do and what services you need to procure to dispose of this waste correctly. For example, food waste is still typically disposed of in the general waste bin but by segregating food waste you can simply start a compost bin on site, not only reducing your outgoing waste but also creating a beneficial by-product – compost, which you can use in your own or community gardens. Measuring and understanding the waste your business produces is the first step to effective waste management.

Improve waste management

Once you have understood what type of waste your business is producing it’s worth taking a look at the waste hierarchy to understand what quick wins are out there and how you can start improving your waste management. The waste management hierarchy shows the best order you should take to reduce and manage waste. The hierarchy presents a route to take you through the different stages of waste management and as you can imagine at the top of the hierarchy is prevention, ultimately the best way to reduce your waste is to eliminate that waste from the beginning, buying products with no packaging. In a more digital world do you need to buy as much paper in the beginning? Take a good hard look at your waste streams and the type of waste you are producing and move it up the waste hierarchy.

Reductions in commercial waste are not just environmentally beneficial, but financially. Some estimates say every standard wheelie bin that you fill with avoidable food waste could be costing your £200. To put that in perspective by reducing that food waste and starting your own compost heap you could be saving up to £5,000 a year if your food waste bin is collected fortnightly. Not only are there direct financial savings but reducing your waste prevents direct environmental pollution and reduces the release of harmful gases into the atmosphere.

By focusing on cutting your waste and communicating results, businesses can build brand affiliation and ultimately aid in winning business. Buyers are no longer just looking at price and performance when making purchasing decisions. Today, consumers purchase from brands that prioritise sustainability as they seek to make an impact with their buying decisions.

So, what steps can you take to start making an impact?

  • Measuring your waste by weight and type, the classic saying here is you need to measure, to manage and then reduce. This is an ongoing cycle and no less important when it comes to waste management.
  • Identify the areas of high usage, identify quick wins and solutions to reduce waste.
  • Create a baseline year/month so you can start comparing to see if there are any spikes or dips in usuage so you can action this and ultimately look to move the waste you create up the waste hierachy.
  • Engage employees and educate them so not only will they help within the business but take that knwoledge home and implement in their daily lives. The best workforce is an engaged workforce.