Did you know that approximately 50%of the average garbage bag is made up of organic waste that otherwise could have been composted? Of that average garbage bag, approximately 14% of the material is considered recyclable. This combined makes up a lot of waste that could otherwise be diverted from the landfill and repurposed for other goods. Given this, there is a lot of potential to improve recycling and composting practices within businesses and homes alike.
The concept of ‘zero’ waste is something to strive for, but it is often met with low expectations (as it is ‘too hard to achieve’) and no plan of action. Keep in mind, becoming zero waste is not something you can implement overnight, but there are some small but big changes you can implement to lead the way. Obviously, the best way to minimize your environmental impact through waste disposal is maximizing your diversion. By optimizing your waste disposal streams, you can in-turn divert more, or even everything, from the landfill.
Offering both diversion streams (recycling and organics) within your business is the first step to increasing your diversion. Most municipalities offer these services to commercial business owners, but there are many private companies (like ours) that will handle the disposal for you. Private disposal companies make doing the ‘right thing’ easy for you as the business owner. This way you do not need to rely on employees to bring it to the curb, or clean the bins- it is all taken care for you.
Although it is definitely not hard to implement a good diversion plan, it can, at times, be challenging. The number one reason that businesses fail at achieving ‘zero’ waste is lack of employee buy-in. Generally, the majority of employees do not want to (or do not see the need to) go above and beyond for their workplace. This includes proper disposal of their waste. However, there are things that you can put in place that can help achieve this, depending on the level of commitment you as a business owner have at achieving this waste disposal standard.
Perhaps you as the employer could offer incentive based rewards for those who are keen on recycling properly or encouraging the ‘zero’ waste concept.
Most employees will blame their lack of diversion on ‘no training.’ Train them to properly divert in each stream, what goes where and why. Use visuals, like posters, above each bin as a reminder.
Although it’s important to incentivize and train, it is also essential to encourage and engage them in supporting your efforts. A few ways to engage employees on creating a ‘zero’ waste environment are:
– Encourage ‘litter-less lunches’
o Litter-less lunches contain no waste. Instead of packing pre-packed foods, encourage the use of containers. This also goes for their reusable lunch bag.
– Have a refillable water bottle station
o This could be an extensive filtered water dispenser or could just be a water cooler. Anything to encourage them to bring a reusable water bottle to work rather than plastic.
– Start a coffee club
o Instead of having your employees stopping for coffee every morning at the local coffee chain, start a coffee club. This would entail each employee to bring a reusable coffee mug from home, and coffee is provided at the office for a small charge.
– Encourage the use of ‘GOOS Paper’
o GOOS paper, also known as good on one side paper, reduces the amount of paper you throw out or recycle. Encourage employees to write on both sides of the paper before disposal. Not only will this initiative help the environment, but will cut costs for you.
Implementing a good waste diversion plan within your business will not only decrease your environmental impact, but will also increase your bottom line.