Jonathan Oldfield, managing director of Riverside Waste Machinery, provides his top ten tips for kickstarting a new recycling strategy…
As the UK’s environmental pressures continue to mount, recycling and waste management strategies are becoming more important than ever before. It’s therefore essential that FMs think very carefully about the services and expertise they offer to their clients, in order to achieve complete compliance and a greater stance on sustainability.
For many businesses, recycling has long been a priority, with organisations – and the individuals within – implementing worthwhile steps to reduce their carbon footprint. For others, this has either slipped to the bottom of the pile in terms of business practices, or the view that recycling is ‘someone else’s problem’ has unfortunately been taken.
Whatever the reason, society – and the law – is changing fast. Businesses now need to think carefully about their own ‘green’ strategy, and although it certainly won’t be a ‘one size fits all’ approach, there are a number of general steps which can be taken to ensure progress in the right direction.
- Remember the mantra ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ – it prioritises what businesses should do with commercial waste and in what order. On a simplistic level, it is better to avoid printing emails unless absolutely necessary for example (reduce); reuse unnecessary print outs such as as scrap paper; and when the paper has no further use, it should be collected separately for recycling. This philosophy should ideally be applied to all materials handled on-site.
- Understand legal obligations. Every business has a ‘duty of care’ to store and move waste materials compliantly (see gov.co.uk), which lasts until a licensed waste company takes the materials away. But it’s the responsibility of the organisation to prove their certified competence, and there are other rules in place too – a permit is required if a company produces more than 500kg of hazardous waste per year, materials such as plasterboard must remain separate from the main waste stream, and £2m+ turnover companies handling more than 50 tonnes of packaging waste per year must register and report to the Environment Agency.
- Audit materials. It is vital to carry out analysis into what materials are typically thrown away on-site, on a daily basis, and which could be reused or recycled. Paper, cardboard, aluminium cans, plastic bottles, food? Having a better understanding of a site’s waste will help prioritise where action needs to be taken first, and what specific improvements to make. There’s no harm in starting small, and it makes sense to begin with the most problematic ‘waste’ stream. It is even possible to achieve ISO 14001 certification for such efforts!
- Calculate the cost to dispose of the waste. If an organisation is not motivated by the environment, focus instead on the financial incentive. It may even be possible to generate a revenue stream from the sale of recyclable materials! The rebate value for cardboard, for example, changes on almost a daily basis, but there is wealth in waste – something that is often overlooked.
- Remember confidentiality – The Data Protection Act has always meant that sensitive paperwork, hard drives, and other private electronic data sources must be handled, stored and destroyed in a secure manner. However, with the recent introduction of the GDPR, the maximum penalties for data breaches have escalated from the previous figure of £500,000 up to £17m, or 4% of global turnover (whichever is largest). At the very least, the services of a specialist confidential waste contractor should be used, who will provide secure receptacles for such materials. However, for utmost peace of mind, FMs should consider shredding and baling confidential waste on-site. The machinery isn’t expensive to procure, is easy to operate and gives maximum reassurances regarding compliance.
- Seek the advice of industry experts. For smaller companies, the simple segregation of materials at source may be enough. Other firms may need specialist recycling equipment to avoid hefty skip charges, so industry experts should be approached for advice. Wider support may be available too, from local authorities or industrial recycling schemes.
- Encourage participation. So many people are expert recyclers in the home, so invite their ideas for workplace improvements and try to incorporate them into any new on-site strategies. Then, at ‘roll out’ stage, helpfully communicate what your workforce should do, how and why it’s important, to achieve ‘buy in’. The initiative is more likely to fail if it’s merely the vision of one person.
- Make it easy and fun! Ever-more hectic workloads are increasingly becoming normal practice, so if recycling is complicated, confusing or time-consuming people simply won’t participate. Keep it light-hearted.
- Review and revise. After all this effort, the recycling strategy needs to work. The truth is it may not be the perfect model the first time, but if successes and flaws are evaluated along the way, continuous improvement will certainly be possible.
- Successes should also be shared, not only with employees and tenants, but amongst FM peers and the wider industry too. This might just inspire another building or facilities manager to follow in the same footsteps and, as clichéd as it sounds, every little helps.