Generating waste also creates greenhouse gas emissions. Not only have packaging and leftover food have to be produced, processes and transported – all of which creating emissions – but also the collection, disposal and recycling can be emission intense. One of the worst offender is food waste, but waste that is not disposed of correctly can be just as harmful. Recycling helps to reduce our demand for new materials and can be more energy efficient than producing new.
The best ways to cut waste depend highly on your organisation. Whilst some businesses, like in the hospitality and entertainment sector, are dealing with vast amounts of food waste, others like shops or logistic companies struggle with packaging. Even if your organisation is office based, you might find that your operations use a lot of paper or that you could do better with recycling.
Whether you’re selling food and drink in your business or they are consumed on your premises by staff or members: Food waste is one of the worst offenders in terms of greenhouse gas emissions when it comes to waste. Up to 30% of all food is wasted in the UK. The emissions that were created by growing, processing and transporting these products could have been saved by simply using them.
WRAP UK offers advice for businesses on how to reduce their food waste on their website.
Even if food waste has not been an issue in your organisation before: Make sure to talk to your staff, members or stakeholders about it. Provide sufficient food storage and processing facilities, like clean and efficient fridges, and offer a food waste collection. This way your food waste can at least be reused.
For many businesses the amount of packaging they get delivered or require to offer for their products can be frustrating. Especially since they have to pay for the recycling. It is important to gain a good understanding of the packaging that you receive: What are the worst offenders in your supply chain? Can you buy products in bulk or switch suppliers to avoid packaging? Can you share supplies with other businesses or pass your reusable waste on (e.g. cardboard boxes) or reuse them yourself? It’s also important to understand the carbon footprint of your packaging. Whilst plastic received a lot of attention lately due to it’s longlivity and thus ability to end up in oceans and other ecosystems, paper and cardboard don’t always perform better in regards to their carbon footprint. Reducing packaging all together is the best option you have, which might mean offering or encouraging reusable solutions.
Surfers Against Sewage are a leading campaigner in fighting single-use plastic and unnecessary packaging. Their Plastic free business pack is a very useful resource.
Especially offices and educational or advisory services can go through a lot of paper in a usual business week. Particularly ‘virgin paper’ with low or no recycled content has a high carbon footprint. Even worse if this paper is then not properly recycled after its use.
For offices the best way to avoid paper is trying to do as much digitally as possible. Ask yourself and your staff questions like: Do we really need to print these documents or can they be stored digitally? What might be most efficient ways to share reports, messages and notes if we don’t use paper. White boards, instead of flipchart for your (new) office might be an idea or even smart screens that can be used as screens and notice boards. Encourage staff to print less. Tracking printing can be implemented if you use user ID on your printers. You can be creative and brainstorm ways to reduce your paper consumption with your members and staff. Set yourself a goal and make the whole process transparent and engaging.