Accounting for up to 4-5% of a business’s turnover, business waste management is essential to get right
Regardless of your industry, size or function, every business produces waste from its day-to-day activities. And every business is responsible for sorting and disposing of that waste efficiently, safely and legally.
What is business waste?
Any waste that is produced as part of normal business operations. This can include:
- General waste that will may end up in landfill or be incinerated
- Dry-mixed recycling like paper, cardboard, food tins, plastic containers and drink cans
- Glass such as bottles, jars and even broken glass items
- Food waste from any stage of food processing, production and consumption
- Clinical waste from healthcare providers, care homes, prisons or beauty therapists
In the UK, the government has set ambitious targets to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, and waste management has a role to play in that. Their 25 Year Environmental Plan has set objectives to eliminate avoidable waste by 2050 – plastic or otherwise, eliminate food waste sent to landfill by 2030 and shift financial responsibility to businesses that pollute.
Quick business waste collection wins
Here’s how you can get started reducing the impact of your business waste:
Run a waste audit
Working through the business function by function, ask yourself: What are the different types of waste that your business generates? How is it stored and disposed of now? How could we do this more efficiently? Are there things we could be recycling instead of sending to landfill?
Develop a waste management policy
Outline how you are going to collect waste from across the business and dispose of it. Set targets for improving your efficiency or for reducing certain types of waste, like plastic. Don’t forget to check any legal requirements for your industry or the type of waste you’re disposing of. And communicate clearly with staff so they know how to support the business in this goal.
Ask for help if you need it
Depending on your industry and the type of waste that you need to dispose of, you may need to work with experts for advice or even to manage the waste collection for you. This can be important if you need to comply with certain legal requirements.
5 ways to reducing business waste
Aligned with the governments 25 Year Environmental goals of reduce, reuse, recycle, we loved the five steps outlined at Smarter Business to reduce business waste
Step 1: Prevent
This applies as much to the design stage – where a business is reducing or changing the raw materials it uses to create a product – as it does to the day-to-day operations of a business – where you avoid single-use items or make the decision to go paperless.
Step 2: Re-use
Can you repair or upcycle the item instead of throwing it away? Or if there is still life in an item but you have a different requirement, could you pass it on to someone else who could use it? And another great tip here is to never use packaging only once.
Step 3: Recycle
Be sure that you have a process in place to sort and collect dry-mixed recycling and glass that comes out of your business and educate your staff on how to recycle properly. For example, it’s important to clean plastic packaging of any leftover food before you put the item in the recycling bin.
Step 4: Other recovery
Could you turn your food waste over to a compost bin? Are there options locally to transform your waste into an energy source? Speak with your local community or with other businesses in your industry to find out what the options are. Or turn to an expert for advice.
Step 5: Disposal
Once you’ve exhausted all the other options, it’s time to dispose of what’s left through the proper channels in your council.
Your waste management policy isn’t a one-off activity. Be sure to review it annually, get your employees involved in finding new ways to reduce waste and make sure you’re documenting the progress you make toward your goals.