Waste Reduction and Recycling: Sustainable Resource Management Strategies
At a Glance
Waste reduction is foundational to sustainability strategy, regardless of scale. While the details of a plan rely on a range of factors from the nature of your industry down to your day-to-day operations, there are a few fundamental steps you can take right now.
Quantify Your Waste Stream and Volume
Finding volume can be as simple as asking your sanitation provider for the bulk weight. Quantification, however, may be a bit trickier. For example, a typical office will have, among other waste streams:
- Copier and printer paper
- Organic waste from meals and snacks
- Plastics (drink bottles, wrapping, etc.)
- Electronic waste from outdated technology or replacement parts (toner cartridges, USB cords, etc.)
- “General” waste, including packing materials, broken office furniture, paper or plastic contaminated by food or chemicals, and other resources.
Consider Strategies at Proper Scale
Once you have the volume, you can begin considering the scale. For example, our Livonia office, after quantifying their food waste stream, found that a countertop enclosed composter could reduce that stream substantially, turning their food scraps into loam for their plants.
Other types of waste might already be managed. If you’re required to separate paper and plastic for recycling by your sanitation company, for example, then you likely won’t need to expand beyond that.
Contact Local Authorities for Proper Guidance
Waste management services have different approaches, so what’s recyclable in one town isn’t in another. For example, in Manhattan, plastic “clamshell” food containers are accepted only when they’re cut in half, while just across the river, waste facilities in New Jersey won’t accept them at all.
Contact your local waste management authority for a detailed list, and be sure to ask about special services, such as composting, you may also be able to take advantage of.
Ask Why Waste Is Generated
Once you know where the waste ends up, you can begin working backwards up the chain and reduce the stream overall. Ask your team:
- How much waste they generate in a day. Making the waste stream visible helps everyone consider why it exists.
- What the process of generating that waste is. Is there something they need to use that has unrecyclable packaging? Is there a step in a manufacturing process that generates waste?
- What steps might be possible to reduce waste. As for their thoughts about efficiency, for example.
- What is it costing them, in money and time?
Beyond this point, managing and reducing waste becomes about the details. Developing a long-term waste management and reduction plan will keep you on track, and help you factor in new approaches as they become available.