In light of COP26, does waste management have to cost the earth?

Submitted by Amelia O'Hanlon | 17/01/2022

Prior to COP26 the fragile state of the planet was described as being ten seconds from midnight and leaders needed to make a meaningful deal in order to cap global warming. In light of this many businesses have been inspired to look closely at their impact on the environment and Head of Vertas Environmental, Mark Horner, looks at the best ways to ensure that your waste management processes are as environmentally sound as possible.

First and foremost, it is imperative to understand your waste journey. Where and how is waste created in your businesses? How is this collected and where does it go? Finally, how is it dealt with?

For businesses looking to go through their waste with a fine tooth comb, this process starts in procurement. Analysing which materials, products and goods your business buys in will help you to design waste out from the beginning. Rather than buying in goods that are difficult to process, are there reusable options or versions created from materials that can be easily recycled? By ensuring that goods in can be easily processed once used, you can minimise your waste output. Plastic bottles are a great example. In order to be recycled they often need to be split up into the bottle, the lid and the label. Is it possible to buy that product in a form that can be recycled in one go?

Next is to make your internal processes as intuitive as possible. Make it easy for colleagues to put waste in the right area or bin for collection and processing. We once worked with a client who operated a factory production line and found that their plastic recycling bin was not being used. The company created a task force to look at improving waste management and one of the team worked on the factory line. They flagged that there simply was not enough time to take the lid off of the recycling bin and replace it each time due to the speed of the line. A simple switch to recycling points without lids alleviated the issue overnight. We always encourage clients to work with their teams to understand their needs and creating your very own ‘Green Team’ is an ideal way to do this.

Other simple tricks to ensuring that waste points are used correctly is to use signage, particularly graphics showing what belongs where. Using clear waste bags is another top tip, this gives you the opportunity to spot items that have been sorted incorrectly and dispose of them correctly. This will prevent items ending up in landfill due to contamination.

Using a local processor can often be one of the most effective ways to process waste. Rather than a supplier to deal with each waste stream, such as paper, glass and general waste, choosing one local supplier who can take your waste for segregation and sorting can cut down on the miles that your waste travels. Ultimately, this can be the first step in minimising carbon.

Investing in an ISO 140001 accreditation can be beneficial and a way to highlight that you are doing the very best that you can. Increasingly we are being asked to support clients in gaining their accreditation. This involves an expert waste management provider, such as Vertas Environmental, coming in to carry out an audit on a business. During this process we can design a bespoke management plan to ensure that businesses are working to minimise environmental impact. This could be through reducing road miles that waste travels, finding alternatives to landfill such as energy recovery or simply improving internal processes.

Ultimately implementing a sustainable waste management system requires a business to actively engage with their processes. Strive to educate your teams and improve what you are doing in order to see it as an area for continual growth. Innovations in the sector are coming thick and fast so a close working relationship with waste experts can ensure that your procedures are continually developing.

For more information on implementing sustainable waste management systems, get in touch.

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