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Recycling at work

By Rebecca Milligan

With strict regulations around waste disposal, and increasing fees for rubbish collection, it makes sense to recycle where possible. We look at some options in the workplace.
recycling symbol on a board with coloured chalks to the side

We all know recycling makes sense – it saves resources, avoids waste going to landfill, and can save money.

Identifying areas where you can reduce waste and implementing a clear recycling policy can help your company operate sustainably – something that is popular with consumers. Being a green operator is definitely worth shouting about.

Check our top tips for writing a press release. Read on for more about recycling in the workplace.

A 2016 survey by Waste company Viridor found that most consumers said they would like to be able to recycle more of their waste. But, at times, they found rules around recycling confusing. It’s important to be clear about your recycling processes to avoid contamination of waste.

Tips for recycling in the workplace

First, think about the way you work. Even if you work from home, you can reduce the amount of waste you create, and the effects are magnified if you’ve got an office or other workplace. There are some simple measures we can all take, including:

  • Conduct a waste review - see what you are throwing away.
  • Make it easy to recycle – create clearly marked recycle areas, with bins for different. materials such as batteries, glass, tin cans and plastics.
  • Avoid printing unless it’s necessary.
  • Use mugs that you can wash up instead of plastic cups.
  • Remove individual bins to make it more likely that people will recycle, rather than throwing things away.
  • Communicate all changes to your staff and encourage them to recycle.

Recycling IT equipment

All organisations, large and small, are legally required to dispose of waste electronics in an environmentally responsible way. Fortunately, specialist recycling companies exist to get the last bits of life out of your ageing IT. They can reclaim separate components, such as hard drives, processor chips, leads and connectors, for refurbishing and reuse. Other parts that can’t be reused can be sorted into different waste streams, so the metals, cabling, glass and plastics can be recycled.

Contracting a waste-disposal company

Business rates don’t cover waste disposal and recycling, so you may need to use an independent waste-management company. There are regulations around the disposal of industrial waste, so always ensure you’re dealing with a reputable operator. All waste contractors must have a waste-carrier’s license – check this before entering into any agreement.

The recycling charity WRAP has come up with some questions to ask your waste contractor, including:

  • Exactly what can and can’t be recycled?
  • What happens if something gets put in the wrong bin – will there be extra charges?
  • How often will you collect? What days and times?
  • Will bins need to be put out, or will they be collected in situ?
  • What is the procedure for reporting missed collections?
  • What sort of containers or bins will you supply, and will you charge for these?
  • Will you clean the containers?
  • What are the options for amending the service if, for example, more or fewer collections are needed?

Construction industry recycling

Many waste materials are a result of either construction or demolition. If you work in a construction-related trade, you can take steps to minimise waste and make the most of opportunities to recycle materials by:

  • having a clear recycling policy in place
  • reusing materials on new projects where possible
  • providing dedicated storage areas to reduce damage
  • training staff to handle materials correctly
  • designing projects carefully to minimise waste.

It can feel like an effort to implement waste-sorting processes, but it is possible to sell on and recycle valuable materials, such as copper, tin, glass, bricks and ceramic tiles. Other waste can be recycled at specialist recycling centres. Your waste contractor should be able to give you information about what’s available in your area. You can also recycle uncontaminated plasterboard, plastics, carpet fibres and certain types of insulation.

Bricks and blocks

You can often recycle bricks from previous building projects. They have a lifespan of more than 200 years, as long as they remain undamaged and uncontaminated by other materials, such as plasterboard. If you want to recycle bricks, you should:

  • plan to minimise cutting of bricks and blocks
  • separate brick and block waste to minimise contamination
  • use a lime-based, rather than cement-based mortar, so bricks can be recovered at building deconstruction.

If you have excess bricks after a project, through over-ordering or reclaiming bricks, you can use them in future projects or sell them to other businesses that deal in reclaimed bricks and blocks. Otherwise, damaged bricks and blocks can be recycled and used as aggregate for general fill or landscaping.

Floor and wall coverings

Some floor coverings, such as wooden laminates (click-together, not the glued varieties) and ceramic tiles can be easily re-used – provided they are undamaged. Social enterprises will often be grateful for surplus floor and wall coverings – even small quantities could be used to help refurbish a small room.

Specialist recycling services can also recover carpet fibres and sell it on to plastics and horticultural markets. There is little market for recycled carpet otherwise.

Reclaimed wood

Timber is one material that can usually be recycled. Waste wood comes in a number of different forms, from tree branches to MDF – but it’s commonly found in the form of pallets, crates, breams, window and door frames, floorboards and fencing.

It’s possible to recycle:

  • manufacturing wood wastes
  • reclaimable and recyclable wood materials from demolition and construction
  • non-reclaimable and non-recyclable wood wastes - eg old fencing, laminated floor coverings and rotten windows and doors.

Motor industry recycling

The automotive industry is already one of the most heavily regulated in terms of disposing of waste effectively. The End of Life Vehicle (ELV) directive aims to increase the level of reuse and recycling of vehicles once they are no longer roadworthy. The industry has to recover 95% of the materials involved in vehicle manufacture.

There are also strict regulations around the disposal of motor parts and oil, to avoid pollution. You should only ever deal with a licenced waste-disposal contractor.

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Tags: Recycling Sustainability Waste management

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