Most people are aware of the importance recycling plays in maintaining a healthy and sustainable environment, and one of the biggest challenges facing facility managers today is the collection, disposal and recycling of workplace waste.
Regardless of the size of a facility, the collection and handling of waste is a critical, and expensive, function. Australia currently dumps around 700 kg of waste per person to landfill each year, with studies indicating the cost to be in the tens of billions of dollars, annually.
After many years of successful campaigns by organisations such as Planet Ark, Clean Up Australia, and Keep Australia Beautiful, the catch phrase Reduce, Reuse, Recycle has almost become a mantra for responsible environmental practice in the workplace and at home.
Recyclable material makes up almost 80% of total household waste in Australia. Therefore, it should be easy to make a significant impact upon the mountains of landfill generated each year. Unfortunately that does not seem to be happening. Contamination threatens the viability of recycling in the workplace and at home by increasing the costs to collectors, recyclers and the community. An effective system of collecting each waste stream can reduce cross contamination by as much as 90%.
Often people are led to think cynically about the viability of recycling schemes by hearing of operations not working and the materials eventually being dumped to landfill. While this may be the case in some situations, most of the time recyclers are simply not getting enough material to meet their capacity.
The 3 most important things any business can do to make a significant improvement in reducing their environmental impact are nothing new, Reduce, Reuse & Recycle, its simple.
Finding innovative ways to implement this basic strategy can be the challenge; particularly for a "time poor" facility manager who has enough to think about on a daily basis.
At work, most of the waste is hidden away where it goes unnoticed by habits and procedures done without thinking. A Victorian study showed that the hidden costs of waste for most businesses were five to ten times higher than the actual waste disposal costs. So it makes good financial sense to get started on a workplace recycling program as soon as possible.
RUD have six easy steps to get any workplace started with their recycling program:
- Find out where the waste occurs and estimate the percentage of each waste stream - paper, plastic, glass etc. This is often referred to as a waste audit.
- Establish the priorities - be realistic about the extent and time frame; small steps are better.
- Plan a strategy - consult with a waste collection contractor for advice and find a “Champion” who can drive the programme forward
- Get everyone involved - launch the recycling programme and communicate with staff and patrons, explaining the why's and how's.
- Celebrate success - it does not have to be expensive, just something to let everyone know that they are contributing to a successful and worthwhile scheme.
- Monitor and tweak the programme and keep open to new ideas.