Earlier in 2015, IÂ made it into the be Waste Wise list of the top 30 influencers on waste,Â and so I thought I’d better live up to that by sharing some tips on sustainable waste management.
When you’re first starting to think about how to improve the way you manage waste in your enterprise, particularly if you’re under pressure to cut costs as well as find environmental gains, it can be daunting.
So here’s a quick step-by-step guide to help you. It’s aimed at SMEs, but it works just as well in large companies.
Get the measure of it
The first thing you need to do is understand how much of each type of waste you produce, how often, in what form, what the wastes are, and what it costs to deal with them. Depending on how big your organisation is, you might find it helps to task a small team with this so that nothing gets missed.
Easy does it
Once you know what you’re dealing with, the next step is to ensure that you recycle as much waste as you can. Access to recycling capability has improved dramatically in the last decade, and you should find lots of easy wins that will help you boost your ‘green’ performance and save money at the same time by avoiding disposal.
Shrink the problem
Recycling isn’t the panacea of good waste management practice though – it’s better not to produce waste in the first place. So, once you’ve maxed-out your recycling options, it’s a good idea to take stock and then start thinking about ways to avoid or reduce waste creation altogether. Key to this is mapping your business processes, so you understand where waste arises and then you can consider making appropriate changes.
Tackling your waste challenge in this order will mean you make immediate gains, that get progressively bigger.
In 2004, a pharmaceutical manufacturer we worked with was disposing of large quantities of 5ml filled glass vials from its packaging operations, and paying for expensive incineration.
We helped them first of all understand the scale of the problem through measurement and a thorough review of the nature of the waste itself.
Then, after getting to know the waste in detail, we were quickly able to demonstrate that the contents of the filled vials was simply purified water, not pharmaceutical product, and so were able to establish a recycling route for them instead of expensive incineration.
And finally, with our input, the clients’ packaging technologists were able to devise a better method of set-up on the filling line which meant it was possible to reduce the quantity of dummy fills and therefore cut down on overall waste quantities.
Because we’d done the upfront measurement work, it was possible to show clearly just what had been achieved – as well as improved recycling levels and less waste, it saved Â£8,000 a year.
Sustainable waste management: it’s as easy as 1-2-3
I’ve been using this three step strategy with my clients for over a decade, and have proven it to work time and time again.
Often, businesses attempt to curb waste expenditure primarily by negotiating lower unit rate costs, but this only ever really delivers short-term gains.
See also: Waste management consultancy
The approach I’ve set out here yields much more significant and lasting savings because it tackles those underlying, true costs of waste (time, raw materials, lost product etc) that some studies say add up to around 4% of turnover.
But, crucially, an emphasis on getting more out of less means it’s much more environmentally sustainable as well as being financially rewarding and, importantly, you see improvements right from the start.
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