Blue recycling bin

Reducing waste at work

Three approaches – reducing, reusing and recycling – can be adapted for the workplace


Reducing Waste at Work

Blue recycling bin

It’s likely that your household recycling is taken care of through your local council. But what happens at work? Three approaches – reducing, reusing and recycling – can be adapted for the workplace to reduce the nearly 50 million tonnes of waste produced by businesses across the UK in 2012.

Reduce and reuse

The first step to reduction is assessing where the waste comes from.

– Talk to suppliers about reducing packaging where it’s unnecessary and agree a method of reusing the packaging for multiple trips.

– Junk mail can be returned to the sender with the request to remove the company from future contact, thereby cutting down the production of the materials at source.

– Industry magazines can be circulated around the workplace to avoid ordering multiple copies that are ultimately thrown away.

– Cardboard boxes can be flattened and stored for redelivery use or office moves. Archive boxes can stand a few years of sitting in a cupboard, near forgotten, to avoid reordering fresh packs each year.

– Envelopes received through the post can be readdressed for internal mail.

– Paper is the most common source and can be reduced altogether through a paperless office. Where paper has to be used, double sided printing and the reuse of printed material as scrap paper will reduce waste.

Encouraging employees to avoid plastic cups for water and coffee machines can reduce waste caused by lunches and snacks. The purchase of crockery cups could replace the work-based staple of the paper chain shop cups. Significantly, many chain coffee shops’ disposable cups aren’t actually recyclable and yet on average, the UK gets through 2.5 billion a year.


A work based recycling policy doesn’t have to be arduous. Some Councils provide free bins and collections while others charge though, so be sure to start by contacting your Council to work out how the recyclable waste will leave the premises. Recycling bins can be distributed according to the workspace available and clearly marked signage above each bin aids correct use. Opportunities for recycling can be as limited or as extensive as your company’s waste. Common signs and bins are available for the disposal of:

– Plastic cups
– Batteries
– Aluminium (drink cans and tin foil)
– Glass
– Paper and cardboard.

We only have one planet. The appropriate disposal of thoughtless waste is a step towards protecting it.

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