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WASTE/RECYCLING PROFITS AWAY? (landfill) the last resort.

The waste hierarchy has existed as a concept for some time but is now officially recognised in UK legislation on waste. It is referenced in Article 4 of the Waste Framework Directive, which was revised in 2011 and requires companies to confirm they have applied the concept in the transfer of waste and to include a statement on all its waste transfer note or consignment note.


Before the waste hierarchy can be systematically applied to identify where reductions and savings can be made it is helpful to carry out an audit of the organisation’s resources. A resource audit quantifies and tracks the procurement, consumption and disposal of resources throughout an organisation. This will typically involve obtaining and analysing details from the procurement/buying departments, discussing consumption patterns for operating purposes, scrutinising utility bills and an in depth analysis of the materials that are disposed.

Armed with this baseline data you will be able to create a resource profile and identify the most prolific resources that the organisation consumes. This will provide a benchmark by which to measure the success of waste minimisation procedures as well as identify opportunities for implementing them. It makes sense to work down the list from top to bottom as preventing waste from being generated in the first instance is much more efficient than dealing with it once it has produced.

PREVENTION & MINIMISATION The application of the hierarchy is something of an emerging discipline and there are a number of different approaches and initiatives that you can take. If raw materials are used you may wish to analyse how they are used, stored, handled and moved and question ‘accepted’ levels of waste. This may involve an evaluation of the organisation’s operating processes or applying greater rigour to the estimating and planning processes. In carrying out an internal audit you can sample and trace waste produced throughout an organisation, reviewing behaviours to provide invaluable information for planning improved performance. Using the services of a professional cost consultancy may sound extreme but the savings that experts can generate may more than pay for the fees involved.

Increasing the life span of equipment and capital items such as computers and office equipment is another area that can reduce wasted resource typically through engaging in leasing models of procurement, or considering repair and reconditioning of existing assets. There are an increasing number of collaborative consumption models for all sorts of capital assets from cars to carpet tiles that can help lead to more sustainable procurement decisions. A re-assessment of the use of consumables and ancillary materials may identify unnecessary waste. An analysis of working practices will almost certainly find areas where utility usage such as lighting, heating and water consumption can be reduced

RE-USE There may be a number of items that

can be re-used by the organisation. For example, packaging items such as pallets, cardboard boxes, plastic bags, mailsacks and bubblewrap used to package in-bound supplies can all be kept and used for outbound deliveries. Consider other partners in your supply chain for whom your wasted resource may have some potential value or take back schemes. You could consider replacing

consumables such as toner cartridges with re-fillable alternatives, or changing from disposable cups to reusable ones. Scrutinise the waste profile for items that can have their shelf-life prolonged by reconditioning for use either internally or by third party recipients. A number of networking organisations and charities exist to facilitate the donation and exchange of redundant furniture and electrical/electronic equipment which can be salvaged and re-used.

RECYCLING Many businesses assume that recycling

is about pre-segregating items that are recyclable such as metal cans, paper/cardboard, glass and plastics from other less finite waste streams or those contaminated with food. Sorting items by material stream certainly facilitates the recycling process but the selection of the waste provider can have a more significant impact on the organisation’s ability to influence the recycling rate and minimise the amount of waste that is ‘disposed’ i.e. sent to landfill.

When procuring or retendering waste services make sure applicants provide up- to-date recycling rates for each material

Direct costs of waste removal often account for only a

fraction of the overall costs to a business

stream. Progressive contractors may be able to provide detailed analysis of the destinations of wastes they manage such as closed-loop recycling rates and data about the volumes that are sent for energy recovery. If possible, select a supplier that provides a Zero-to-Landfill solution. This is achievable, if you select a waste provider who specifies that materials that cannot be further segregated for recycling go to generate energy from waste not landfilled.


Envirowise maintains that implementing a systematic waste minimisation programme can result in significant cost savings from reduced raw material and waste disposal costs – typically 1 per cent of turnover or up to £1000 per employee. However, as well as these mouth- watering financial benefits, using the waste hierarchy and implementing a systematic resource reduction plan can produce a number of ancillary social, environmental and reputational benefits for a business. Reducing consumption and waste will obviously help conserve the world’s natural resources as well as reducing the impact an organisation has on Climate Change. Pushing wastes further up the hierarchy will help to reduce the amount that is ‘disposed’ into landfill which itself will help minimise land pollution. These environmental initiatives are likely to create a feel-good factor amongst an organisations’ staff and increase motivation. Contributing re-usable items such as furniture and equipment to charities or the local community also provides a social benefit. Promoting and publishing these environmental and social initiatives and achievements tells the world that the organisation cares, is contributing to the well-being of the community and the planet which increases its reputation and credibility amongst its stakeholders and ultimately enhances its brand value.


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