Facilities generate a variety of waste streams from paper, glass, cardboard and plastic, to waste electronic and electrical equipment (WEEE), food and hazardous waste. Recycling these resources can provide cost and time savings, brings environmental benefits and improves staff and stakeholder perceptions of an organisation.
Engaging the workforce
Recycling best practice is a team effort and typically depends upon the engagement of hundreds of people working across large estates. However, it doesn’t have to be difficult and by using tailored messaging, combined with carefully selected products and services to enable recycling, facilities managers are ideally placed to encourage all staff to take ownership.
Sorting at source
One key thing that has reduced the level of waste is the proper sorting of material at source. Different waste streams should be collected in separate bins, to avoid contamination and make the recycling process simpler. The value of paper, for example, is significantly reduced if it is contaminated with wet wastes such as food, and may even render it unrecyclable. So, having enough bins in the right places and clearly marked is an important first step.
Poor segregation will lead to increased costs of disposal for many facilities. This may even result in prosecution if the waste is ‘mixed’ and is deemed no longer suitable for the waste treatment or disposal option that has been selected. In healthcare settings, for instance, segregation on site is vital to comply with clinical waste regulation.
Bags of choice
Sacks, bags and speciality products for the storage and collection of segregated waste must enable easy separation and limit the chance of contamination, whilst having the lowest environmental impact. From compostable caddy liners for food waste to compactor sacks, clinical waste sacks, and refuse and recycling sacks of all shapes and sizes – we offer carefully developed products for a range of sectors. Our LowCO2t™ environmentally friendly plastics range – including several types of refuse sacks – are lightweight products that use less material but achieve the same high-performance standards.
Responsible use of plastic
Lightweight plastic packaging can help facilities use resources more effectively in other ways too. For example, it helps keeps food fresher for longer, reducing waste. It also enables the safe containment of liquids such as cleaning products, for example. As long as it is disposed of correctly as a recyclable resource, plastic is the greener option. Plastic and indeed any other irresponsibly discarded material, can harm the environment – so we need to ensure that their value is recognised, and they don’t become throwaway products.
Responsibly produced plastic packaging can have a high recycled content (up to 100%) and can be reprocessed many times, not only saving virgin material but associated energy as well. Recovering plastics is both resource and energy efficient and by specifying ever more recycled plastic content in products we are helping grow the market for recyclates. Where this is not practical, the calorific value can be recovered to generate electricity or heat at the end of their useful life, through energy from waste (EfW) plants.
Plastic packaging also brings value and efficiencies to the supply chain – weighing, on average, 4.5 times less than alternatives including paper, cardboard, glass and metal, thus reducing transportation costs.
Ensure that sustainability initiatives are communicated throughout the business and provide ongoing training to encourage ‘green’ thinking. Trained and incentivised staff can spot sustainable opportunities that might not be obvious from the board room. It’s not unusual for the best ideas to come from the ‘shop floor’, where people are working day-in day-out and have a thorough understanding of the resources they use.
And, for the first time ever, thanks to the BBC and the Blue Planet effect, everyone is on board and understands why we need good waste management and recycling systems to clean up our world and maximise resource efficiency.