The principles of effective waste management are much the same for businesses as they are for households. Here is what you need to know.

Businesses tend to produce more waste than households (because they involve more people). Furthermore, in some businesses, the waste produced may be more hazardous than regular household waste. That said the principles of effective waste management are much the same for businesses as they are for households. Here is what you need to know.

Reduce

The less waste you generate, the less waste you have to manage. It, therefore, makes sense to see what you can do to reduce waste production, having environmental awareness will help. How you go about this will depend on the nature of your business. There are, however, some key points which apply to a broad range of companies.

  • Avoid over-ordering perishable items, even if they are affordable
  • Look for suppliers which minimize packaging and/or take it back
  • Make sure your bins are only used for waste produced by your company

This last point matters for two reasons. Firstly, you will be the one charged for the disposal of the waste in your bins. Secondly, if any inappropriate waste is found in your bins, you will be the one held accountable for the fact.

This means that, as a minimum, you want to keep your bins somewhere only your staff can access easily. You might want to consider locking bins and/or having them watched by CCTV.

Reuse

Buying used equipment is good for the planet and can be excellent for your finances. As long as you choose your supplier with care, it’s as safe as buying new equipment. All electric equipment legally resold in the UK is tested for safety. Reconditioning companies also often provide warranties on a par with retailers which sell new items.

Similarly, finding ways to reuse your waste can be more cost-effective than just sending it for recycling. Even if you just donate it to a charity (rather than selling it), you can still potentially claim a tax credit for doing so.

Recycle

With recycling, often the big challenge for businesses and consumers is knowing what can be recycled. Currently, the law throughout the UK requires businesses to separate waste into general waste and recyclable waste. At present, only Scotland requires businesses to segregate recyclable waste into different categories.

Businesses elsewhere in the UK should, however, probably work on the assumption that this requirement will be extended to them at some point. In fact, it may be extended sooner rather than later as local authorities look to save money after the pandemic.

For practical purposes, recyclable waste can be classed into two categories.

  • Waste produced by the business itself
  • Waste produced by staff

The former should be relatively easy to predict and therefore control, provided you have clear oversight of your business operations. Your challenge is to implement a straightforward and robust process to ensure that recyclable waste is consistently identified by staff on the ground and taken where it needs to be.

Staff waste is not as predictable, but can (and must) still be managed. People will generally comply with waste-disposal instructions as long as they are clear and easy to apply. This means that the most pragmatic approach is often to have large, clear posters in the waste-disposal areas so staff can check what they should do.

About the Author
Peter Watson, Director at Watson & Watson Health and Safety Consultants. Watson & Watson are experienced health and safety consultants, providing health, safety and risk management solutions throughout the UK.