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Waste free tips for the workplace

If you are interested in reducing landfill waste and generally managing waste better, you have come to the right place. Here is a step by step guide to reducing waste in the workplace. 


Step 1. Measure it

A good starting point is to take stock of the waste that’s currently produced. This step helps a business to better understand the different waste streams and establish waste management goals. 


Whether someone actually digs through the bins at the end of a day or if colleagues separate their waste into different containers (or cardboard boxes to start with), create a list of how many kilos or litres of waste are produced. Then categorise it into the different waste streams (landfill, recycling, composting or reusable materials) and check the quality of the recyclable materials (i.e. it should not be contaminated with food scraps). 



Step 2. Identify options to reduce landfill waste

Reduce: And potentially save money

Even if plastic goes in a recycling bin, not all plastic products are recycled locally and some might even end up in landfill because it’s not financially viable for councils to recycle them. ABC’s popular show “War on Waste” took a closer look at which plastics can be recycled.


The best option to avoid landfill waste is to reduce the consumption of products. Look at ways to reduce the use of materials, for example how your business obtains goods or does business. Ask yourself “Do we really need to produce branded pens, notepads and umbrellas?” or "Can we stop using straws?“. 


Need some more inspiration to kickstart initiatives to reduce waste? Sciencealert has collected a whopping 50 ideas to reduce office waste. Or join The Last Straw campaign that aims at reducing plastic straws in Australia by providing businesses and community ambassadors with handy toolkits.


Reuse: Get creative with waste

Ever heard of by-product synergy? It’s a concept by which one business uses the waste of another business, which can be a win-win situation for both. One example is local food business giving all their food waste to a local pig farm. 

Recycle: Reduce waste of materials

Recycling can be different in each council in Australia, so find out which materials can be recycled in your local area. Almost each council has information about recycling on their website. The City of Darwin for example has collected information about waste & recycling and a handy A-Z Waste & Recycling Guide that can help to identify which materials can be recycled.


You could stop here, but how about…


Buy recycled goods: Close the loop

Recycling is only ever going to be successful if the loop is closed, so make sure you consider buying recycled goods. They can be slightly more expensive, but there are some clever ways to save money. Keep an eye out for bulk orders like 100% recycled toilet paper without plastic from Who Gives A Crap or maybe even team up with other businesses to reduce cost and the environmental impact of shipping (if products can’t be sourced locally).



Step 3. Make a plan

If possible, task a group of individuals (Waste Champions) from each area of the business to tackle waste management.  Setup bi-weekly or monthly meetings to check on progress and create a plan as a guide for the group.


Here an example of a simple waste management plan (assuming a mid sized business).


1 month

  • Phase out of individual bins and introduction of central recycling stations for paper, recycling, soft plastics, metal cans (Cash for Containers – Down Syndrome Association NT) and landfill. 

  • Identification and implementation of options to divert food scraps from landfill. Top tip: Community Gardens like the Lakeside Drive Community Gardens might be interested in ongoing partnerships.

  • Setup of office supply recycling programs for example through TerraCycle.

  • Introduction of staff training and signage for recycling.


3-4 months

  • Implement policies to reduce waste i.e. Keep printing to a minimum or replacing plastic containers or cutlery with sustainable options. 

  • Review of products bought and sold. Identification of more sustainable options.

  • Align purchasing guidelines to insure recycled and locally sourced products are favoured.


5-8 months

  • Review of production processes and identification of potential waste reduction opportunities. Possibly incentivise good ideas to reduce waste. 


After 6 months: Review of progress – what has worked and what might to be tweaked?


Step 4. Share Success

Consumers are nowadays more conscious and often favour environment friendly businesses, so it‘s a good idea share success stories along the way.

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