Sustainability is a word that we increasingly come across in all aspects of life. We probably all have an overall understanding that it is about the avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance. In business, we may see it more specifically as the idea that goods and services should be produced in ways that do not use resources that cannot be replaced and that do not damage the environment. Sustainability is a broad subject and can be broken down into many different sections that all affect our lives on a day to day basis. We can positively contribute to each of these areas to help sustain the world for future generations. Also, by positively contributing, your businesses will be seen more favourably by customers as they can see you are showing care and commitment towards the environment.
Why is waste management within sustainability so important – and why should organisations have a focus on it?
While environmental topics have been on the agenda of many organisations for some time, the topic of sustainability is perhaps a little more recent. It is, however, becoming more important for all companies regardless of their industry. Customers, owners, shareholders and employees are asking increasingly searching questions about how products and services are delivered sustainably. As such, we now see that 62% of executives consider a sustainability strategy necessary to be competitive today, and another 22% think it will be increasingly important in the near future.
These statistics are encouraging as organisational strategy is essential to creating long-term value for our ecological, social and economic environment. Sustainability is built on the assumption that developing such strategies foster company longevity.
What can organisations do to improve their sustainable waste management performance?
Firstly, and with reference to the waste hierarchy mentioned earlier, organisations can concentrate on significantly cutting waste and encouraging reuse. This will minimise the use of virgin resources to create unnecessary items such as single-use products. Efforts can also be focused on reducing food waste and (‘avoidable’) single-use packaging such as straws, cups, carrier bags etc. as these offer the biggest opportunity for change.
Once waste reduction opportunities have been exhausted, there must be a focus on recycling as many items of waste as possible.
Finally, following the maximisation of material recycling, the final focus is to use the remaining waste to generate low carbon energy. Even the residues from energy recovery can be used as aggregates in road building. Processing waste in this way leaves nothing that could end up in a landfill site.
Why is it important that organisations follow a sustainable waste model?
As the expectations on corporate responsibility increase, and as transparency becomes more prevalent, companies are recognising the need to act on sustainability. Professional communications and good intentions are no longer enough.
In acting, many are finding that there is truly a business case for good sustainability, rather than just a PR case. Indeed, the evidence is mounting that companies with a sustainability programme do actually perform better, on average, than those without. This is encouraging more organisations to examine the actual business benefits of shifting to a more sustainable model.
If your business has not begun to act on sustainability, then your starting point is to identify ways to reduce your environmental impact and how to maximise your efforts to provide your business with benefits. This is possible by understanding what you’re currently doing through detailed analysis and reporting. Only then can you identify what you can do, and the impact this can have on both your business and the planet.
Case Study: Waste Management within the London Mayor’s Environment Strategy
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, published a draft of the London Environment Strategy for consultation on August 11th, 2017. This strategy reiterates that change will have to be made to ensure that London remains a liveable city for residents and workers. Within the campaign, there is a large focus on sustainable waste management and how London is planning to tackle waste.
Our linear economy (take, make and dispose of) is unsustainable. It produces too much waste, with around 7m tonnes coming from London’s homes, public buildings and businesses each year. Of this, 52% is currently recycled but performance has stagnated. The capacity of landfills accepting London’s waste is expected to run out by 2026 and London’s waste bill is now in excess of £2bn a year and rising.
Partnership is key to the campaign and the London Mayor will invest funds into developing businesses that embrace the circular approach to resource use. The focus will be given to businesses with reuse, repair and remanufacturing projects and those using low carbon technologies. The London Waste and Recycling Board (LWARB) will also invest in a circular economy growth capital fund and accelerator. This will provide support for those companies who will be growing the circular economy in London and delivering the co-benefits of greenhouse gas emission reductions and increased resilience for the city.
The Mayor will work with organisations including the Restart Project, Globechain and Warpit to boost materials repair and help divert unwanted items to useful purposes.
Waste authorities must demonstrate how they will transition their waste fleets to low or zero emission options, prioritising the phasing out of diesel-powered waste fleets. They are expected to comply with the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) vehicle exhaust emission standards and to work towards the Mayor’s overall ambition that:
- All new cars and vans (less than 3.5 tonnes) will be zero emission capable from 2025
- All heavy vehicles (greater than 3.5 tonnes) will be fossil fuel-free from 2030
- Zero emission fleets by 2050. Fossil-fuel free can include the use of 100% renewable fuels derived from sources such as food waste and waste oils.
London’s ambition is ultimately to be a zero waste city. By 2026 no biodegradable or recyclable waste will be sent to landfill and by 2030, 65% of London’s municipal waste will be recycled. Major progress toward zero waste is possible through the use of standard operating procedures, techniques and systems that reduce or eliminate waste, facilitate recycling, and promote the creative use and re-use of products, materials and facilities. In Westminster, our Commercial Waste Services can help you by carrying out a waste audit to review the potential opportunities to begin or improve your recycling practices.
How can your business support sustainable waste management?
There are lots of ways to improve sustainable waste management but they typically follow the waste hierarchy pattern of the 4 R’s of waste – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Recover.
The four R’s of sustainability
Here are some examples of how you can reduce waste in your organisation:
- Avoid single-use straws, plates, cups and cutlery when catering.
- Avoid wasting paper – use only what you really need.
- Share journals and publications or get an online subscription
- Make better use of notice boards, intranets and online forums for shared information
- Avoid sending out hard copy letters when a phone call, email or personal visit might do instead
- Make notes or minutes electronically rather than on paper
- Only run appliances such as dishwashers when they’re full
- Switch off lighting and heating/cooling when work areas are not used
For other ideas, download our full guide on “How to Reduce Waste” from our website
These examples look at items that can too easily be thrown away but can actually be reused:
- Choose refillable items such as printer cartridges, glue, pens etc.
- Reuse folders rather than order new ones
- Reuse packaging materials such as cardboard boxes, bubble wrap etc.
- Use scrap paper to take notes and messages.
- Use internal mail envelopes for hard copy documents which can be reused.
- Don’t throw away redundant office furniture but donate it to charity or community groups in your local area https://www.globechain.com/
There are a number of things businesses can do to ensure that they are recycling optimally. These include:
- Recycling toner cartridges
- Purchase recycled and low waste products. A detailed guide to recycled Products is available. See website: www. recycledproducts.org.uk for more information
- Recycling cans, plastic and glass bottles, paper, cardboard, etc.
If you need more help recycling, take a look at all of the recycling services we offer.
Recovery is the extraction of materials or energy from waste for further use or processing, including, but not limited to making materials into compost.
Westminster City Council, as an example, sends food waste to an anaerobic digestion facility, which creates energy and compost. General waste is used as a fuel to generate low-carbon electricity and district heating.
After the 4 R’s, by far the next most important area for improving your sustainability performance is transport.
How many of these ideas can you promote in your organisation? Are there any ways you can motivate any of your employees to take these up?
- Cycle or walk to work or appointments
- Car share with co-workers. Think about buying your next car as an electric or hybrid one. Don’t idle engines.
- Do an eco-driving training course to drive in a way that reduces emissions, fuel use and improves road safety
- Encourage staff to use public transport or bike shares for work-related visits. Especially in (Central) London, car-based transport is often inefficient, slow and unnecessary for work-related travel.
- Ensure your waste collector has a policy of minimising vehicle journeys and miles travelled. They should also use a fleet of low emission vehicles.
Case Study: 5 star Langham Hotel, London – waste and recycling – cost overhead or sustainability?
A hotel could view waste management as one of those unavoidable overheads that need to be controlled from both an operational and cost perspective. The Langham Hotel, however, ties this activity to its Corporate and Social Responsibility (CSR) programme – known as “Connect”.
The Langham Hotel’s strong CSR-driven agenda is a response to the increasing demands of clients and has lead to the receipt of environmental awards such as Gold-Certified EarthCheck and Green Tourism certification. This comes on top of awards for community involvement and support for children’s charities such as Great Ormond Street Hospital and KIDS.
Sustainability is another key CSR theme across the entire hospitality sector. A current trial in The Langham Hotel is a project with charity Plan Zheroes to redistribute excess food that has been ordered – largely for events – to charities that can use the food in support of their activities.
Learn more about our hotel waste management services.
Waste management checklist
How sustainable are your current waste management practices? Fill out our checklist below, checking off all of the activities you are currently doing, to see how you can improve. Don’t forget to submit your answers at the end so we can email you a copy of your results for you to improve on.
The 4 consultations on key RWS elements
1. Improving Collection Consistency
The main objective of this RWS stage is to improve how the UK recycles. This includes residential and businesses to get involved and start segregating their waste consistently.
Read more on the full consultation responses
2. Reforming packaging use through Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for packaging
The Extender Producer Responsibility is designed to reduce harder to recycle packaging materials, in favour of sustainable packaging. This could potentially have a high impact on businesses with a high number of packaged products as you will be responsible for the recycling disposing of the waste.
Read more on the EPR consultation responses
3. Creating a UK-wide plastic packaging tax
The possibility of a new tax on all plastic packaging products with less than 30% recycled content could affect Westminster businesses who produce, distribute or import plastic packaging. Steps will be required to ensure packaging and products adhere to the new rules and requirements.
Read more on the plastic packaging tax consultation responses
4. Introducing a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS)
Businesses that sell drinks containers will be expected to take their waste back recycled and the cost of the deposit will be added to the price of the drink. The customer will have their deposit returned once the empty drink container is returned to a designated return point.
At WCC we are already prepared with a number of reverse vending solutions, such as in Kings Cross Central.
Read more on the DRS consultation responses
Waste management in the workplace
If you are looking for ideas to implement in your workplace then here are some examples of how organisations have reduced waste as part of a sustainability plan.
Ways of reducing the amount of waste produced in the workplace include:
- Reducing the number of desk-side bins available to encourage staff to think twice about how to dispose of their waste responsibly. Have on-floor centralised bins so people have to engage with what they throw away.
- Go paperless for example, on invoicing, reporting, minutes and notes etc. Most hardcopy documents are discarded very shortly after they were printed.
- Use of IT and new technology can also reduce the amount of waste generated by a business. Online collaboration platforms and file sharing can avoid the need for production, distribution and storage of paper-based documents and reduce the requirement for meeting/ business travel.
- Phones and printer cartridges. Some charities provide recycling services for mobile phones and toner cartridges. However, it is important to be aware that the waste producer is responsible for the correct disposal of electronic goods and must make sure that any third party waste management organisation has the correct permits in place. Be mindful of the secure destruction of data bearers that contain sensitive or confidential information.
Sustainable Clothing Guide from WRAP
If you are in the fashion or clothing business in any way, here is an example of a sustainable clothing guide.
The Sustainable Clothing Guide shares simple steps to best practice on how to design, produce, and sell sustainable clothing that lasts longer, and that can easily be repaired and re-used.
WRAP encourage designers and product technologists within brands and retailers to use this guide as part of their daily work to embed durability at the product design and development stages.
Working together, the clothing industry can pioneer sustainability throughout the lifecycle of clothing. WRAP’s research, Valuing Our Clothes, found that the most significant opportunity to reduce CO₂, water, and waste is to increase the active life of clothes.
Event waste management during the 2012 London Olympics
When the London 2012 Games bid team promised a sustainable event back in 2005, they recognised the opportunity to use the power of the Olympic Games to drive a legacy of positive change. This laid the foundation for sustainable lifestyles. The London Legacy Development Corporation will continue to build on this vision to realise a thriving new district based on three key themes: People, Places and Performance.
Sustainability in the Olympic Park goes beyond the environment. It is also a story of social equality, employment, economic growth and prosperity. These wider social, economic and environmental purposes make up the London Legacy Development Corporation.
Learn more about sustainability – download our guides
Our full sustainability guide provides you with all of the information above in one handy PDF, that you could share with your colleagues. Downloading the guide also gives you access to two extra sections which can help your businesses sustainability efforts. Get your copy now.