Recycling and Waste Management

What the future holds and how to approach it for the common FM

In December of 2018, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) published the much anticipated (and long-awaited) ‘Resources and waste strategy for England’ – a document which will have a major impact on the UK. This publication sets out the government’s plans to preserve material resources by minimising waste, promoting resource efficiency and moving towards a more circular economy. 

This is important news for facility managers as it will indelibly affect the way that you collect, process and manage your waste. Unfortunately, in its current form, this publication is still quite short on concrete strategy, and quite full of ‘maybes’. This is because a lot of the intended strategies still require major consultation, such as tax, deposit return schemes and extended producer responsibility. 

However, this is certainly a step in the right direction as the document aims to achieve the following:

  • Ensure producers pay the full costs of disposal or recycling of the packaging they place on the market by extending producer responsibility
  • Review producer responsibility schemes for items that can be more difficult or costly to recycle, including: cars, electrical goods and batteries
  • Explore extending producer responsibility to other materials such as vehicle tyres, certain construction and demolition materials and bulky waste
  • Introduce a consistent set of recyclable materials collected from all households and businesses 
  • Introduce consistent labelling on packaging, so consumers know what they can recycle in order to drive up recycling rates
  • Introduce a deposit return scheme to increase the recycling of single-use drinks containers including bottles, cans and disposable cups filled at the point of sale (pending consultation)
  • Ensure weekly collections of food waste for every household – restoring weekly collections in some local authorities (pending consultation) 
  • Consider free garden waste collections for households with gardens (pending consultation)
  • Explore mandatory guarantees and extended warranties on products to encourage manufacturers to design longer lasting products which drive up the levels of repair and reuse
  • Introduce annual reporting of food surplus and waste by food businesses
  • Clamp down on illegal movements of waste at home and abroad by introducing compulsory electronic tracking of waste and tougher penalties for waste crime

Ten Tips for Managing Waste Correctly

We’ve had a look at the future, but the real question is what practices should already be in place? 

  • Regular waste audits 

Completing regular waste audits is going to go a very, very long way towards effectively managing your waste process. You need to measure what matters; and that starts with a comprehensive understanding of just how much waste your business is producing. 

Your audit will help in identifying the quantity and make-up of the waste you generate, as well as identifying the processes which generate said waste. This will give you a clear picture of the current status quo. 

Your audit should provide you with the following information as well;

  • Whether or not your current waste management provider is correctly licensed and permitted to transfer, store and process your waste 
  • How much non-hazardous waste your produce
  • How much hazardous waste you produce
  • Potential improvement areas for waste segregation 

You should use audits to track your business’ evolution and improvements as well!

  1. Evaluate your current approach

As a waste producer, you have a Duty to Care – a piece of legislation which sets out your responsibility as a waste producer. (Scotland has its own legislation, which is similar). Basically your Duty to Care says that your production, storage, transportation and disposal of waste should not harm human health or the environment. 

When you have evaluated your current approach, there are some steps you can take to try and improve things on the ground. 

  • Communicate the financial benefits of efficient waste segregation to your superiors
  • Train staff in recycling best practices and incentivise them to follow
  • Use clearly labeled and colour-coded waste containers
  • Look into returning packaging to suppliers
  1. Communicate your waste goals

It doesn’t help to go about this whole effort solo. Inform all relevant parties exactly what your waste management goals are, and then continue to expect them to assist in achieving them. This includes suppliers, contractors and clients. 

  1. Figure out exactly what waste is costing you

There are multiple cost drivers you need to keep an eye on to figure out the total running costs your facility is incurring. 

Things to watch out for:

  • Annual increases in landfill tax and other disposal charges you accrue
  • Waste-handling employee costs
  • Unnecessary costs associated with buying materials
  • Transport costs
  1. Are you waste management compliant?

Given that you are responsible for your waste, right up until recovery or treatment phase, you need to know the answers to the following questions:

  • Who is responsible for each process in the waste disposal journey? 
  • Is your material storage sufficient and compliant?
  • Is your waste management partner fully licensed and permitted to carry out their duties?
  • Are any of your processes being outsourced beyond a third party? 
  1. Become a leader and lead from the front

Become a leader in your portfolio, and set the example for the rest of the business. If you are seen to be effectively and capably handling your organisation’s progress, as well as setting good objectives, you will demonstrate strong leadership and build credibility with superiors. 

This should go a long way toward achieving effective buy-in from the organisation and will add stakeholder confidence. You want to promote your eco-friendly tendencies to clients, local authorities, regulatory bodies, contractors and investors. 

  1. Look to the long-term health of your business relationships

It makes sense to evaluate your business relationships, and how these other companies rate on the waste management scale. Especially in the case of suppliers, you may want to look toward new connections. Some things to query:

  • Can you verify their waste recovery and recycling rates?
  • Are they appropriately licensed and permitted? 
  • Are they compliant with legislation?
  • Do they have an effective management system which will allow to check their activities?
  1. Look for missed opportunities

If you are serious about securing a competitive advantage for yourself, go and look for opportunities to improve. Can you work together with suppliers and clients on waste reduction? Are you correctly segregating your waste and is there room to do it better? Can you reuse any materials effectively? 

  1. Foresight

This is something you should already be aware of; but the world is moving heavily toward a cleaner environment – as the DEFTA publication should prove. Clients and customers are increasingly looking at sustainable practices when sourcing business. Adopt good practices and you should find reduced costs, a positive brand reputation and more potential revenue streams coming out of the woodwork. 

  1. Set the target from the start

If you are taking on new business, or starting new projects, agree on your key performance indicators at the very start. Setting strict waste reduction and recycling targets early on is a great idea. 

You will effectively be setting baseline values; from which you can draw multiple statistical conclusions in the long-term. You will also be sending a very clear message about how serious you are in getting things right from the word ‘go’. When targets are reached, or reduction is apparent – celebrate with all your stakeholders! 

A Clear Way Forward

It seems apparent that effective waste management and proper recycling practices are going to have a major impact on the future of all businesses across the UK. By setting benchmarks, and following simple and effective practices, you can ensure that your organisation remains at the forefront of the wave – riding it in to shore. 

Make the right choices now. Reap the benefits tomorrow.