Fancy cutting costs, boosting staff morale and lessening your impact on the environment in one go? We’ve collated all you need to know about recycling your business waste...
According to WRAP (the Waste Resources Action Programme), a quarter of England’s waste is produced by its businesses.
So, it’s not enough to just separate your plastics from your food waste at home. Your business also has a responsibility to ensure its waste causes as little environmental harm as possible – a responsibility that, alongside social obligation, is enforced by legal regulation.
Furthermore, there are plenty of ways in which introducing a recycling scheme can benefit your business – and it’s not difficult or expensive to organise, either.
Want to learn more about business recycling? Read on for everything you’ll need to know…
This article will cover:
- The reasons your business should recycle
- How to set up a company recycling scheme
- The rules and regulations of business recycling
- How much it costs to recycle business waste
- Best practices for recycling in the workplace
- How to get your staff to buy in to the scheme
- Other ways you can foster a green work culture
From its impact on the environment to the impact it can have on your staff and your purse strings, there are plenty of reasons to recycle your business waste…
- First, the most obvious reason to recycle: it contributes to the protection of our environment, both by reducing the amount of waste going to landfill and cutting the carbon emissions usually caused by general waste disposal.
- It can improve your business’ reputation, showing clients, staff members, investors and the general public that you’re considerate and mindful of your business’ impact on the world.
- It can boost your staff’s morale, making them feel as though they’re a part of something positive. Plus, staff members who already recycle at home will appreciate the opportunity to do so at work too.
- It’s cost-effective. No, recycling isn’t expensive to organise and yes, it can even cut costs and help your business to save money – but more on that later.
How to set up a company recycling scheme
The first step in setting up a recycling scheme for your office is to find an appropriate local recycling waste contractor – in other words, the service that will collect your recycling from your offices, or a recycling drop-off point, and deliver it to a recycling facility.
The government provides a database of waste contractors across the UK – you can browse it here. It’s also a good idea to get in touch with your local authority to check out their recycling guidelines and see if they can recommend a service.
To find the right contractor service, you’ll need find out:
- The materials you’ll be recycling – is it authorised to handle them?
- Does it offer on-demand collection or do it in regular slots?
- How frequently can it collect from you?
- Can it collect waste directly from your office or will it need you to deliver it to a drop-off facility first?
- Can it cater for the size of your business and the amount of waste it produces?
- How will it charge you? Will it be annual or per collection?
- Does it hold a waste carriers license (more about this below)?
Once you’ve found a contractor that fits all of your preferences, you’ll need to negotiate a service contract with them – including collection schedules and the contract period.
Many contractors will provide you with the necessary recycling bins to use in your office – it’s worth making sure that this is the case, or else finding somewhere to purchase them from.
Often, a contractor will visit your office before the deal is struck in order to suss out the bins you’ll need, and the best location for you to leave them to be collected.
Recycling rules and regulations
What can a business recycle?
As long as you have the correct bins in place, your business can recycle:
- Paper (including office paper, coloured paper, confidential documents, shredded paper, envelopes, leaflets/flyers, newspapers, magazines)
- Tins and cans
- Plastic bottles
- Food waste
- Printer cartridges
- Electrical equipment
Remember, only general waste can be disposed of in black bin bags – recycling must be disposed of in clear bags.
Duty of care requirements
Every business has a legal duty of care over its waste, and must ensure it’s stored and transported safely and securely, without causing any harm to people or the environment.
When it comes to recycling, your business will be subject to a number of requirements under the duty of care law.
Firstly, as with general waste collection, the contractor you select to transport your recycling to a recycling facility must hold a waste carriers license, having registered with the Environment Agency or – if you’re based in Scotland – the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency.
This is your look out, so ask to see a copy of their certificate of registration before employing their services. Make sure you ask the contractor where they plan to send or deliver your recycling to, to ensure it’s being properly recycled.
Conversely, if your business is going to transport its own recycling, make sure it delivers it to a licensed drop off facility (you don’t need to be registered as a waste carrier, but you must be sure you’re going to a site which is authorised to accept commercial recycling).
Any recycling collections or drop-offs, whether carried out by a contractor or your business, must be accompanied by a waste transfer note (WTN), provided by the waste holder/producer (you) and filled in by both you and the contractor. If you have waste collected regularly, you can create a ‘season ticket’ to cover a series of loads.
The UK government provides more detail, plus a waste transfer note template, here.
Electrical waste needs to be recycled in compliance with WEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) regulations. You can read up on those here.
The costs to recycle
How much it costs your business to recycle will depend on a number of factors, including:
- The volume of waste you’re recycling
- The materials you’re recycling (for example, white paper is often cheaper to recycle than coloured paper)
- The location of your business
- The prices set out by the recycling contractor you choose
Can recycling save your business money?
While you might assume recycling will be an additional cost to your business, you’re actually likely to find that it causes your overall waste management costs to drop.
After all, if you end up recycling a large portion of your waste instead of simply sending it to landfill, you’re going to save on landfill tax – which has now risen to a considerable £84.40 per tonne – not to mention waste disposal gate fees, which sit at an average of £6 per tonne.
Plus, whatever non-recyclable rubbish you have leftover after recycling isn’t likely to require a high-capacity service to remove it – and it probably won’t need to be collected as frequently, either – saving you money in waste collection costs.
Recycling best practices
If you want your business’ recycling to have as much of a positive impact as possible, you and your staff will need to follow a few best practices. Of course, some of these will be difficult to monitor and enforce to your staff. But, you can make sure everyone is aware of the rules – and send out reminders if standards seem to be slipping.
Firstly, you should be aware of whether you’ll need to separate all of your recyclable materials or whether you can mix them – for example, putting glass and plastic into the same bin. Check your local recycling guidelines, or those of the facility your contractor delivers to, to be sure.
Regardless of this, you and your staff should always rinse out food packaging and drinks bottles before throwing them away. Recycling facilities simply cannot recycle plastic packaging that has food smudged into it – cleanliness is crucial!
Likewise, you should only recycle clean paper. Ink and pencil markings are fine, of course, but if a piece of paper is grease-stained or has been used to wipe up food, it’s no longer recyclable and should go into general waste.
For even more cost and ecological benefits, try to reduce the amount of waste your business creates in the first place. Encourage staff to ditch single-use plastics and avoid printing anything that can be read and shared electronically. You could even try supplying staff with branded reusable drinks bottles.
Recycling bin layout
You’ll get the most out of your recycling scheme if you place each bin in the location where it’s needed most. For example:
- Set up bins for paper, cardboard and confidential documents near to desks
- Set up bins for paper, cardboard (for food packaging), plastic bottles, cans and tins, glass and food waste in your kitchen space, common area, or wherever staff tend to prepare and eat food
- Place bins for batteries, printer cartridges and electricals at reception, near to printers, or else in a central location
Of course, you’ll also need to place general waste bins near these to negate the risk of people placing non-recyclables in the recycling bins.
Getting buy-in from your staff
Keeping staff informed
First, thing’s first – you need to make your employees aware that you’re introducing a recycling scheme.
Send the message out through internal communications such as emails and newsletters, put an update on the company intranet (if you have one), and stick notices or posters up around the office. Do this before the scheme begins so staff know there’ll be changes, then again once it has started.
Encourage staff to take part by explaining the benefits of recycling and being clear that everyone’s contributions are important. But do keep your messages short and sweet so your staff will have time to read and digest them within their busy schedules.
NB: It’s important that you use the communication channels your staff pay attention to – don’t only put it in the newsletter if the majority of staff don’t regularly read it.
You’ll also need to make sure that your cleaning staff are aware of the new recycling procedures.
Keeping staff engaged
Some people will take to your recycling scheme immediately, while others will need to be coaxed into doing so. To encourage all your staff to buy into the new system, try…
- Encouraging senior managers and team leaders to lead by example and spread the message
- Offering a reward to the team which recycles the largest portion of its waste
- Making a charitable donation or paying for a team lunch for every kilogram of waste recycled
- Create business-wide recycling targets and provide updates on how they’re progressing
- Removing employees’ individual under-desk bins to encourage them to use recycling bins instead (this is risky as it may disgruntle some staff and lead to more cluttered desks – if you’re going to do it, be sure to warn staff and explain your reasoning)
- Giving staff the opportunity to provide feedback, comments or suggestions
Fostering a green culture
Recycling could be the gateway to building a greener, more sustainably-focused office culture in your business. If your staff take to the scheme well, it could be a sign that your they’d be receptive to other eco-friendly initiatives, such as:
- Launching a cycle to work scheme, encouraging staff to use their cars less often
- Running fundraising days and activities – think lunch time bake sales or sponsored fun runs – with proceeds to go towards environmental causes
- Offering charity days to staff, giving them the opportunity to take a day out each year to do something charitable instead – for example, taking part in a beach clean
- Appointing someone to keep an eye on the stationary cupboard to make sure staff aren’t needlessly throwing away hundreds of pens every week
- Replacing any food or drinks you provide sustainably sourced alternatives
You might also consider making the following changes to increase your business’ sustainability and reduce its carbon footprint…
- Stock up on reusable envelopes and use them for your post
- Replace office cleaning products and soaps with green brands
- Replace the office’s light bulbs with low-energy ones
- Source recycled equipment for the office, such as paper, pens, notebooks, ink cartridges or even furniture made of recycled materials
- Switching to a sustainable energy source to power your office
The benefits of recycling your business waste are undeniable. If you’d like to get started, follow the advice in this guide, and get in touch with your local council for their advice on how to go about introducing a recycling scheme in your area.