How to reduce plastic waste in the office

How To Reduce Plastic Waste In The Office?

Plastic waste is a significant problem that is having an impact on a global scale. We are now generating an estimated 300 million tonnes of plastic annually. According to a Greenpeace report, 10% percent of it eventually makes its way into our oceans. Unless we make drastic changes, this will likely grow to a point where it will impact our lives and nature in unimaginable ways.

Regarding plastic waste, most scrutiny has been put on manufacturers, who are expected to use less. However, when we consider the workplace and offices, in particular, there is a lot that we can do to make a change. So, when it comes to identifying how to reduce plastic waste in the office, what can businesses do?

Ways to reduce plastic waste in the office

Carry Out a Waste Audit

You can carry out a waste audit to identify ways to reduce plastic waste in the office. This is the perfect place to begin, and it will help to determine the type of waste, plastic consumption, and volumes being generated. At this point, it will make it possible to select the right course of action.

You might, for example, identify a large number of single-use plastic water bottles being disposed of by employees, or you might identify that you are ordering and wasting large volumes of plastic packaging, pockets, or files.

A waste audit might sound like a difficult and time-consuming process, but it doesn't have to be. You can look at purchases on an annual basis, identify areas where you can purchase different items or make a change and even go through your bins to record the content.

This audit will enable you to understand what waste you are generating before developing a plan of attack. Whereas it might not prove possible to completely eliminate plastic, incrementally minimizing it where you can is a step in the right direction.

Plastic Bottles Office Recycling
How much plastic does the office lunch hour generate? Carry out a waste audit to inform how you might reduce plastic waste in the office. Whereas plastic that makes its way into the recycling bin is a good thing, encouraging people to use less in the first place is even better. Providing water fountains without plastic cups is a simple, actionable step most offices can undertake without a problem. Over time see if you can monitor a reduction in plastic generated. Aiming for none at all where practical. Photo: Public Domain.

Create a Green Team

Discuss the problem of plastic waste with employees and then put together a green team. They can monitor plastic usage at certain times of the year and continuously remind staff about the effects and the cost associated with plastic waste.

Much of the waste seen in the office comes from items that staff bring into the workplace. This comes in the form of food and drinks containers, both of which contribute significantly to the problem of global plastic waste.

Alongside employees monitoring plastic waste and usage, you could also introduce your procurement staff into the process. It is possible that they can play a significant role in reducing the volume of plastic waste that you generate. As they have an influence over what is purchased, they can seek out alternatives, provide insights into purchase requests, and question what is being used.

Build Relationships with Suppliers

Reducing plastic waste is all about making the right choices. It is not just about monitoring employees' plastic in the workplace. The aim here is to ask suppliers if they have plastic-free alternatives or if they can reduce the packaging they use when delivering items.

There are several ways suppliers can help make a difference, and if you can prompt them to make a change, it will help office managers reduce their plastic waste.

Provide Reusable Gifts

Reducing plastic waste in the office is about changing the habits of everyone who works there. Asking employees to reduce their use of plastic is one thing but asking them to purchase reusable is another.

Encouraging them to go plastic-free might involve gifting them items such as a reusable water bottle or lunch box. Ditch plastic cups and recyclable paper cups for coffee and tea in favor of reusable coffee cups. Encouraging people to bring their own reusable coffee mugs can add a personal touch to the morning coffee break.

You can also provide office reusable containers for lunch leftovers or anything else that might consume single-use plastic.

Making a change on a wide scale can prove difficult at times. However, providing them with the right tools is a great way of encouraging them to make a conscious effort to reduce the amount of plastic that they waste.

Make Recycling Bins Readily Available

When employees are focused on their roles and completing tasks, the last thing they need is to have to search for a recycling bin. So, if offices make them readily available and accessible, it makes it easier for them to dispose of their waste in the right way. This could mean that more waste is recycled and less makes its way into the ocean or landfill.

Reduce Supplies

Most offices order too many pens, staplers, hole punches, and other office supplies. Is there a need to have hundreds of pens in the supply room, only for them to become unusable after the ink dries up? Should every employee have their own stapler or hole punch?

A lot of waste is generated from supplies, and this is an area where a simple change can be made. Ordering the bare minimum and asking employees to share supplies can make a huge dent in the amount of plastic waste that is generated.

One of the real problems lies in the use of single-use plastics. This could include disposable plastic cutlery, plastic spoons, plastic straws, food trays, and even water bottles. Businesses can invest in cutlery that staff can use, and they can even provide glasses for drinking. The aim is to consider the amount of single-use plastic used before seeking out alternatives.

If your business regularly ships products, search out eco-friendly packaging options and actively remove extra layers of plastic. Swap out plastic bags for paper where practical, or seek bioplastic alternatives. Additionally, your customers will appreciate less plastic packaging to dispose of if you're shipping goods to people's homes.

Understanding how to reduce plastic waste in the office is not a challenging task. In fact, it is not a time-consuming task either. All it requires is forward-thinking, planning, and small changes because, collectively, the small changes lead to big changes that can really make a difference.

Office Plastic Waste Pollution
We've all got a role to play in reducing the plastic waste that blights our waterways and natural environment. Understanding, thinking, and acting to reduce plastic waste in the office matters as much as at home. Photo Credit Michael Coghlan on Flickr CC BY 2.0
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