Recycling Trade Waste
If it cannot be prevented in the first place or reused, plenty of the waste that businesses produce on a daily basis can be recycled; everything from food, wood, and metal to plastic, glass, and paper. For a long while now the onus has been on commercial ventures to have a good waste management strategy in place. That includes recycling trade waste as much as possible.
All businesses, whatever their size, must adhere to what is called the waste hierarchy which is aimed at reducing the amount we need to send to last ditch options such as landfill. Keeping to this framework and using it to produce a trade waste disposal strategy can not only reduce the impact of a business on the environment but can also save money in the long run.
The Waste Hierarchy
The waste hierarchy comes from the EU Waste Framework Directive which highlights five steps which business should follow when dealing with waste.
- Prevention: This is perhaps the most important part of the cycle of reducing waste. If we operate less wasteful processes, stop buying the things we don’t really need, we will naturally reduce the amount we need to send to recycling or landfill. This includes extending the life of a product or reusing it for something else, considering the type of things we use in our office processes and what the impact is on the environment and even whether we are pushing harmful or hazardous waste into the environment that could be easily avoided. An example could be reducing the amount we print in offices or swapping harmful chemicals used in factory processes for more organic ones that are more readily biodegradable.
- Preparing for Reuse: Each day we throw away products that can be reused in some way. Businesses should not be throwing these in the bin if possible but cleaning them up or repairing them so that they can be used again, either within the office or factory or by third parties to whom they can be sold to. This could apply to products such as computers which can often be refurbished and passed on to charities or those in need.
- Recycling: This is where any product that is no longer needed is repurposed in some way and is not simply discarded. This can include pulping paper to make more paper which is more environmentally friendly than making it from ‘virgin’ sources. We are all used to recycling certain things nowadays such as paper, glass, plastic and wood and metal. The range of what we can recycle is growing and now includes electronic devices.
- Other Uses: One of the major developments in recent years is using waste that cannot be recycled or reused for the creation of energy. This goes beyond simple incineration that is used to produce heat and electrical power. Food is often sent to anaerobic digesters which can then be processed to produce energy while also providing valuable fertiliser for use in agricultural industries.
- Disposal: This is the final option and is split into two categories, landfill and incineration (apart from incineration to produce energy). We are looking to significantly reduce the amount we send to disposal sites such as landfill in the future and the first stages of the hierarchy are designed to achieve this.
Each business is legally obliged to follow the waste hierarchy and implement the best strategy for the type of waste they produce. Obviously, this will be slightly different for a supermarket compared to say a school or event manager or even an ordinary office.
Example of Waste Management for an Office
Most offices nowadays have an office printer and produce paper and card waste in lots of different ways. The waste hierarchy could be implemented in several ways here. For instance, they might reduce the amount that is printed, choosing instead to use digital solutions such as sending a document to a tablet or smartphone rather than printing out in hardcopy.
Apart from printing less often the business might reuse packaging or join a mailing preference service to cut down on the amount of junk mail they receive. Paper could be used and sold for a small profit as filling for packaging. And finally paper and card could be sorted to be sent to recycling where it can be made into new paper or even for use in energy production.
If you consider that we use over 12 million tonnes of paper and card every year, then you’ll understand how reusing and recycling can make a big difference. Simply putting, recycling paper is a cost effective solution and the higher the grade of the product the better the outcome.
Even the fibres from paper pulping that are too small to make a new paper product can be used in energy production such as Combined Heat and Power (CHP). You might also think that because paper is biodegradable there would be no problem sending it to landfill. Actually, the opposite is true because, as it degrades, paper produces methane which is damaging to the environment.
Taking all waste products including wood, metal, glass and plastic through the same waste hierarchy analysis can significantly reduce the amount that is simply sent to landfill. Having a good waste management contractor is, of course, a significant part of this process and you need to ensure that you employ one which is licenced to handle the type of waste you produce.
You can find waste management contractors on our dedicated database.