running a green office

recycling in the office

Reduce, reuse and recycle and you will save money in the office. It is estimated that waste typically costs companies 4.5% of their turnover and when you consider that recycling is the easiest scheme to involve everyone in, it makes sense to implement a basic programme as soon as possible. This article looks at the practical issues of setting up successful recycling systems, how to monitor a system and ensure long term success and also gives a list of questions to ask a recycler and an easy to download recycling email/memo suitable for distribution to all staff.

Initially it is useful to complete a waste audit to identify what, where and how much waste is generated by the company. Then you can compare costs after the scheme is up and running and will be able to point to the financial savings. The audit should, according to Waste Online:

  • identify all points at which waste is generated
  • identify the origin of each type of waste
  • identify the quantity and type and its environmental effects
  • establish the costs of current disposal methods
  • look at opportunities to reduce, recycle or reuse the waste
  • set targets for reducing waste

reduce
To reduce paper use, ensure all photocopying and publications are produced in double sided format on recycled paper. Question whether you need draft or hard copies at all and encourage the use of email and voicemail to minimise paper use. Even when you do need to produce reports and newsletters, reduce paper use by setting the printer to no more than 1.5 line spacing and lay out the publication with the minimum necessary white space. If you send out free reports, consider mailing a post card first, so people know what is available and how they can get copies.

Ensure you cancel junk mail (ring 020 7766 4410 for the Mailing Preference service) and get your name removed from unnecessary mailing lists and unnecessary magazines and publications to reduce the amount of waste you need to recycle.

Review distribution lists and update databases regularly to save both money and resources. Do not over order marketing and publicity materials. Most companies throw perfectly good material away because they ordered too much or it is out of date.

Reduce printing and faxing by using electronic communication where possible and discourage the printing of emails unless absolutely essential. Scan your letterhead into the computer to produce an electronic template.

Fax machines need to be set so they do not produce unwanted header or report sheets.

Reuse paper whenever possible – paper that has been printed on one side for draft or scrap message pads.

Envelopes can often be reused for internal mail.

recycle
Contact authorities and local companies for recycling. Put paper recycling bins in all offices and next to photocopiers and printers or where staff often pass by. Make it easy for staff to recycle and provide clear notices for what is and isn’t recyclable. Strictly confidential waste costs more to dispose of, so ensure all staff know exactly what is non-confidential. Consult and communicate and you will get cooperation. Ensure cleaning staff understand and support the recycling scheme and that know where to empty recycling bins.

The idea is to collect as much recycling material as possible and find a reliable company to take it away. White high grade office paper is in high demand. Maybe your current waste management company offers waste collection for recycling, but it is also worth checking around and getting quotes from local companies. CD ROMs can be sent for recycling and ink cartridges as well. Computers can be reused by charities and drinks cans may be recycled. Cardboard and plastics are other items worth considering. Implement what works for your business and always obtain competitive quotes. Think about where you will store materials until you have enough to be collected. It might be worth contacting other local businesses in the area to set up a cooperative recycling programme.

A prospective recycler should be able to explain what authorisation or licenses the company holds. Get written confirmation on competency and other written questions. Understand how your materials should be prepared (separated or mixed, for example). And check what the charges are and if there are any hidden costs.

Use recycled paper as standard. Make someone responsible for paper purchasing. Find out how much is currently spent on paper, how much has a recycled content and have targets to reduce paper use, reduce paper costs and increase the use of recycled paper by a particular date. Aim to purchase a high-recycled content with a post-consumer waste content greater than 70%. It should be totally chlorine free during production and sold with an accredited environmental or green label that details emission standards and post consumer waste content. Download Duport’s free green policy documents to inform staff and customers about your new environmental credentials.

websites containing general information on waste and recycling
www.wasteonline.org.uk in-depth information on all you ever need to know about waste. In particular the Waste in the Workplace and Legislation Affecting Waste are sections well worth a look and the wacky facts make you stop and think.

www.recycle-more.co.uk the Recycle More site has a Recycling Bank Locator, enabling visitors to locate their nearest recycling banks (with a map) and in-depth information about waste.

www.nrf.org.uk the National Recycling Forum directory.

www.useitagain.co.uk buy and sell reclaimed second hand building materials.

www.crn.org.uk Community Recycling Network promotes community waste management in the UK. (CRN)

euro.recycle.net is Europe’s recycling marketplace with links to directories of commercial recycling businesses.

www.envirowise.co.uk Envirowise is a government organisation aimed at businesses and offers free, independent advice on practical ways to minimise waste and convert turnover into a profit.

www.recycle-more.co.uk commercial recycling businesses.

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