Waste management tips for business

A fruit and vegetables shop begins using an organic waste system for its discarded fruit, vegetables and other organic materials. It produces more than 400 tonnes of a rich mulch product that can fertilise further crops.

The same business recycles bottles, cans and cardboard boxes, reducing its waste to landfill by two-thirds.

There are many things you can do to manage your waste effectively.  The three Rs - reduce, reuse, and recycle - can help you, the community and the environment. Here are some practical ways to help your business reduce its waste:

  • Know what your waste is – you can establish the types and quantities of waste your business produces by doing something very simple – look in the garbage bin. A quick look will show you how full the bins are and what your business discards. Bin Trim is an audit tool that can help you measure the amount of waste your business creates.
  • Separate the different types of waste – it is important that you know what items of rubbish you can recycle or reuse. You also need to have separate bins for waste going to landfill and for recycling.
  • Introduce a waste reduction program – this is a great way to build cooperation and communication amongst your staff on reducing waste. Appoint a waste management coordinator who can identify local recyclers and establish a program that reflects your business’s needs.
  • Review your products – this is where many businesses can make big savings. Does the cost of disposing of materials outweigh the cost of producing or buying them? Could your business use fewer materials in packaging, or better still, reuse or recycle them?
  • Buy green goods – talk to your supplier about using environmentally friendly products or materials. Buying recyclable or eco-friendly products are often the same price but better for the environment and easier to dispose of.

Waste management scenarios

Regardless of your type of business, consider these steps to reduce, reuse and recycle:

  • A warehouse can look at optimising bag and carton sizes, resulting in less packaging.
  • A business can utilise a new contractor who accepts a wider range of plastics for recycling.
  • A firm can test recyclable, compostable layers for packaging materials.
  • A mail service can produce recyclable mailbags using recycled polypropylene.
  • A plastics company can partner with a global recycler. This enables customers to repurpose products such as toothbrushes, cosmetic items, coffee pods and satchels for recycling.
  • A factory can convert waste into soil and compost, and use the organic waste to generate green energy.

Any retailer can take similar steps by:

  • having a paper and cardboard recycling system
  • recycling grease, fats and frying oils
  • ensuring printer and copier toner cartridges are refilled or recycled
  • introducing shopping bag that are compostable instead of plastic bags
  • ensuring other shop-keepers support recycling measures.

Waste minimisation

A NSW EPA research paper on recycling for small to medium business found that nearly all claim to engage in some form of recycling. While most agree that this gives them a competitive edge, they also said they were doing all they could to recycle their waste products.

  • For an average café or restaurant, food waste comprises more than 60 per cent of its total waste. Paper and cardboard takes up another 18 per cent. This means that about 80 per cent of the waste could be composted or recycled instead of going to landfill.
  • The waste from a typical commercial office is about three-quarters paper and cardboard, 12 per cent food waste and six per cent glass and plastic. This means that almost 95 per cent of the contents are recyclable.

What to do…

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