As many businesses continue to adopt sustainability practices into daily operations, one of the easiest places to start is the area of waste reduction. Waste reduction focuses on the prevention of solid waste generation through making changes in selection of products, packaging and purchasing habits, as well as adopting smart reuse practices.
Besides helping to reduce your company’s environmental impact, waste reduction practices can result in the following benefits:
Significant cost savings – due to better management of materials and inventory as well as reduced disposal costs
Changed RCRA regulatory status (from large quantity generator to small quantity generator, or conditionally exempt small quantity generator) – due to outstanding waste reduction success
New customers – due to your improved business image (you’ll also educate your existing customers about positive changes that lead to waste reduction)
Safer workplace – due to reduced occurrence and likelihood of worker exposure to waste and workplace accidents
Healthier environment – due to diminished demand for landfill space, saved resources and energy, and reduced pollution.
Below is a long list of easy ways to minimize waste generation for your business:
- Purchase primarily durable, concentrated, reusable, high quality products.
- Centralize purchasing to eliminate unnecessary purchases.
- Track material usage to optimize ordering.
- Substitute less toxic materials for toxic materials (e.g., vegetable-based inks, water-based glue, markers and paints).
- Use plastic trash can liners made of recycled HDPE instead of ones made with LDPE or LLDPE.
- Order merchandise with minimal packaging or layers of packaging. Contact manufacturers directly to let them know your purchase preferences.
- Request that deliveries be shipped in returnable containers.
PACKAGING / SHIPPING
- Use lightweight packaging and when possible eliminate unnecessary layers of packaging.
- Use reusable boxes and mailbags for shipping to branch offices, shops, and warehouses.
- Ship products to your customers in the boxes that you receive from your suppliers.
- Ask customers to return boxes for reuse.
- Reuse packing materials (e.g., foam peanuts, bubblewrap and cardboard boxes), or for loose-fill packaging material consider using shredded office paper.
- Return cardboard boxes and foam peanuts to distributors for reuse.
- Return, reuse and repair wooden pallets and spools.
- Make use of digital means of communication and eliminate the need for paper (this is probably obvious).
- Make double-sided copies whenever possible.
- Reuse envelopes and use two-way envelopes.
- Avoid bright or deep toned paper and try to pastel colors instead.
- Circulate memos, periodicals and reports, rather than distributing individual copies.
- Eliminate unnecessary forms. Double-side forms or redesign them to fit on a half sheet.
- Don’t pre-stuff packets for meetings or conferences. Let participants take the handouts they think they will use.
- Provide convenient and clearly labeled recycling stations for employees.
- Consider renting instead of buying equipment that is used only occasionally.
- Use quality used or remanufactured office equipment.
- Invest in high quality, durable, repairable equipment.
- Stick to a regular maintenance schedule to prolong the life of copiers, computers, and other equipment.
- Reclaim reusable parts from old equipment.
- Sell or give old furniture and equipment to employees or donate it to a local charity.
- Use retreaded tires on company vehicles, rotate tires regularly, and keep tires properly inflated to save energy and improve wear.
- Install reusable heating, ventilation and air conditioning filters.
- “Delamp” light fixtures when possible (i.e., in 4 lamp fixtures, take out 2 of the lamps).
OUTSIDE YOUR BUSINESS/LANDSCAPING
- Compost organic waste and use in landscaping operations.
- Incorporate waste reduction into the planning process for special projects (construction and demolition waste, material reuse, recycling, etc.).
- Use organic gardening techniques to avoid the use of pesticides whenever possible.
- Reuse plant containers and flats or return them to a local nursery.
- Choose slow-growing/drought resistant/native species in landscape design in order to reduce the production of plant debris and minimize water and fertilizer use.
- “Grasscycle” your lawn clippings. This involves using a mulching mower to cut grass into smaller pieces then leaving the grass clippings on the lawn. This lawn care method reduces waste volume while conserving soil nutrients and saving fertilizer costs.
FOOD AND PERSONAL SERVICES
- Dispense cleaning solutions in refillable containers such as pump spray bottles. Use products in non-aerosol containers when possible.
- Use durable towels, tablecloths, napkins, dishes, flatware, cups and glasses.
- Encourage employees to bring their own mugs and utensils.
- Buy company mugs instead of providing disposable cups.
- Buy reusable coffee filters or unbleached disposable filters.
- Reuse trash can liners or eliminate where possible and discontinue use in cans with dry trash only.
Incorporating a few of these tips at a time will help reduce the amount of waste your company generates, save you money, and affect positive environmental change in your community. For more information about ways to green your business, Waste Management offers Sustainability Services that not only address your specific needs, but also introduce you to new and more efficient ways to run your business. Contact us to learn more.