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Where there's waste, there's opportunity: 10 waste management strategies from SWRnewstar

Will Keer, Corporate Accounts Director, SWRnewstar, shares his top 10 strategies for turning enterprise waste into opportunity

The way a business manages its waste is not simply about supporting environmental best practice, it can help drive commercial sustainability too. But only if it’s approached in the right way.

It’s all about changing our mindset. 

10. Challenge the common model 

Typically, UK companies’ waste management strategies focus on the cost of removing the waste generated. But the real opportunity comes from focusing on the processes in the business that lead to waste being generated in the first place. If this can be minimised then, not only will upfront purchasing costs reduce, but the cost of disposal also decreases. 

9. Encourage behavioural change

By analysing their supply chain organisations can identify where they are generating waste. Shifting thinking from ‘waste to dispose of’ to ‘resources to manage’ can be useful. Education around the recycling process can help ensure items are segregated correctly. Food is a good example, many people don’t realise that any food left in packaging contaminates the paper and cardboard in the recycling bin leading to that whole bag of material going in landfill.  

8. Incentivise/reward good practice

Often the message “that it’s the right thing to do” isn’t enough to engage all stakeholders with recycling schemes. An additional way to help get more people on board, especially over multiple sites or in multi-use properties is to share the recycling results and compare performance. Integrating messaging about recycling into internal communications channels champions those who are doing well. 

Numbers and statistics help to bring the campaign to life. For example, if one floor within an office building has segregated waste well and has increased recycling rates, organisations can apply monetary values to demonstrate the cost savings and circulate the messaging. However, once there is the initial engagement, it’s important to be consistent with the approach so that initial enthusiasm to make positive changes is maintained. 

7. Regularly re-evaluate 

A proactive approach is important to ensure ongoing improvement. The re-evaluation of recycling strategies presents companies with an opportunity to not only eliminate wasteful practices and lower costs but also boost profitability.  

6. Look beyond the price-per-lift 

There’s a common tendency for procurement teams to benchmark providers on a basic metric of ‘price-per-lift’. This creates tendering processes that are narrowly focused on disposal costs and that typically culminate in contracting the provider with the lowest price-per-lift.

There are other ways to reduce waste and recycling costs. For example, reducing the overall volume of waste produced leads to lower disposal costs. Focus on diversion from general waste; recycling collections for glass and food are cheaper than disposing of these resources into general waste. For businesses handling large quantities of valuable materials such as metals or high quality card introducing processes which effectively segregate these can generate rebates. Partnering with a waste management company that looks beyond ‘lift rate’ can bring significant benefits.

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5. Seek flexibility 

Flexibility is another quality to look for in a waste management partner. The price of lifting a half-full bin is no different to the price of lifting a full one, linking collection schedules with the times that most waste is generated is the best option. A waste management partner who is flexible will build a recycling solution which is custom-designed to fit your business irrespective of location, waste type or collection restrictions. 

4. Leverage partnerships 

Making the most of partnerships can be pivotal to the success of a waste management campaign. Local authorities, charities, other local businesses and suppliers all have a potential role to play. One example of an innovative way of leveraging partnerships is working with local charities who can make use of things like furniture and fittings when properties undergo renovations.

3. Talk about plastic  

With climate change and sustainability continuing to dominate the news, collaborative work is required across all stages of the supply chain including; packaging manufacturers, distributors, and retailers, as well as consumers, waste collectors and recyclers.  

Plastic remains a serious challenge, particularly single-use plastic. In April 2022, the government will introduce The Plastics Tax. The tax will apply to plastic packaging that is made from less than 30 per cent recycled material. DEFRA’s current consultation is reviewing exactly which products will be covered; it’s proposed that bio-plastics and compostable plastics, not just the petroleum-, polymer-based plastics will be covered.  

While 2022 may sound far away, it is not actually that long for retailers and manufacturers to change their packaging production and internal processes.  

2. Review the wider business agenda 

A number of countries are placing restrictions on the recyclable materials they will import. With China and India leading the way, the UK faces a conundrum of not knowing how or where we can move their plastic, cardboard and other materials. The most viable option is to build more domestic infrastructure to be able to reprocess the recyclable material whilst proactively reducing the volume of material being created.  

This two-stage approach can also be adopted by businesses. Firstly, to identify avoidable waste and implement processes to minimise it. Secondly, maximise recycling of unavoidable waste.  

Shifting legislation is going to change the agenda around recycling over the next few years and businesses have an opportunity to get ahead early.

1. More flexible circular models are emerging

The government along with many businesses and consumers are working to build a truly circular economy, starting by designing out as much waste as possible. This affects more than just the waste and recycling sectors – it impacts manufacturers, product designers, and procurement teams. Focussing on ways to reduce, reuse and recycle is becoming relevant for more and more people. 

Waste management can no longer be seen as a low priority utility or narrowly defined as an exercise in corporate social responsibility. By assessing the route of the problem, organisations can make informed choices and implement changes that reduce costs. A useful mantra is ‘resources not rubbish’.

SWRnewstar is recognised for delivering its innovative range of waste management and recycling services to some of Britain’s biggest businesses, whilst being the only waste broker to manage and encourage behavioural change throughout its customers’ internal teams.

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