Waste Awareness Part 2 – Waste Minimisation

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Following on from the first part of this four part series on waste awareness (Part 1 – What is Waste?), I thought it useful to provide some information on the waste hierarchy and how your business (or your home) can go about reducing the amount of waste it produces.

Waste can be expensive to manage and the costs are only going to increase until the Government is satisfied that a number of targets on waste minimisation are met. If businesses can minimise the amount of waste they produce in the first place, it will save them, and local councils, money and make businesses more competitive.

The Waste Hierarchy

The waste hierarchy shows the options for businesses to deal with waste they produce. In the UK, disposal has been the most common option for most businesses. However, as taxes and the cost of waste disposal increases annually & legislation changes, businesses should consider other options.

Best practice for businesses involves starting at the top of the waste hierarchy and examining opportunities for prevention and reduction when carrying out  a waste audit.

1. Prevention/Reduction

Waste reduction concentrates on not producing waste in the first place and will require businesses to review & analyse their processes & inputs. This will often include a review of the design of the products or services a business offers and the processes it uses to produce them. Waste reduction includes:

  • Prevention/reduction of waste generated;
  • efficient use of raw materials; and
  • process analysis.

In this context, waste reduction will cover pollution prevention, resource efficiency, clean production and clean or cleaner technology. Waste typically costs business 4.5% of their turnover for most businesses a saving of 1% of turnover or more may be made through waste reduction.

With the amount of waste and environmental legislation increasing, by reducing waste businesses are better able to comply  with legislation and avoid the amount of expensive fines they can incur, as well as reducing environmental risks and liabilities.

2. Reuse

Reuse differs from recycling as it does not involve a process which changes the original item in order to make it usable. Even the simplest office can have scope for savings from reuse, such as using refillable ink cartridges or using the back of a single sided copies as office scrap paper.

In more complex industrial settings there will be a whole range of inputs and related process where a waste audit will need to identify all inputs, possible wastages in the process and how they impact on each other to determine how items can be reused . By closely examining inputs, it may be possible to link processes and reduce waste.

The 2002/2003 Commercial and Industrial Waste Production Survey carried out by the Environment Agency identified that 44% of industrial and commercial wastes are being reused or recycled in England and Wales. The practice is being encouraged and there are an increasing number of waste clubs or waste directories available to enable businesses to exchange packaging or other materials between themselves to prevent materials entering the waste stream.

3. Recycle

Recycling enables waste materials to be used again after they have been put through a process, rather than using virgin, mostly limited, raw materials. The opportunity for recycling materials that would otherwise be sent for disposal is growing all the time as new markets and re-processors are being established to accept materials and convert them to second and further uses.

Waste materials are more effectively recycled if they’re segregated and clean and the segregation of raw materials is best carried out as near as possible to the point of production. This is an important rule when setting up a system for recycling.

The most common materials suitable for recycling are paper, metals, organic wastes, plastics, construction,demolition and inert waste, oils, glass and wood.

4. Recovery

Where materials cannot be re-used or recycled to make another product, the final option prior to disposal is to recover energy from the material via thermal treatment, either by burning the material alone or combining it with existing fuels to reduce the fossil fuel (i.e. coal and oil) input.

Energy recovery from waste is the least favourable method of waste minimisation in environmental terms, however at least some value is being recovered from the waste. This option is becoming increasingly important as a waste management option & energy provider. New technologies and processes are being developed all the time to enable clean and efficient energy recovery with minimal environmental impact, whilst allowing waste to be diverted from landfill.

Your business

Have you adopted a waste hierarchy within your business (or home!) and if not, do you think it might be time to consider doing so? The benefits for reducing waste created by your business will have  a significant impact on its bottom line, as well as the wider positive effect it will have on the environment.

At The Organised Cleaning Company, we work hard to implement our waste hierarchy within the business in order to keep our costs as low as possible  and those costs savings are passed on to our clients. We can also help you with your waste requirements by carrying out waste audit as part of our site survey for your cleaning requirements, so that you can find out  how you might better manage your waste in order to reduce costs.  Contact us on 020 7458 4433 and book an appointment so that we can help you with your cleaning and waste needs.

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