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% per cent of which eventually makes its way into our oceans1. Unless drastic changes are made, this is likely to grow to a point where it will impact our lives and nature in unimaginable ways. When it comes to plastic waste, most of the scrutiny has been put on manufacturers where they are expected to use less. However, when we consider the workplace and offices, in particular, there is a lot that can be done 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

In order to identify ways of how to reduce plastic waste in the office, a waste audit can be carried out. This is the perfect place to begin and it will help to determine the type of waste and volumes being generated. At this point, it will make it possible to select the right course of action. You might identify a large number of single-use water bottles2 being disposed of by employees or you might identify that you are ordering and wasting large volumes of plastic 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 make it possible for you to gain an idea of what waste you are generating before developing a plan of attack.

Plastic Bottles Office Recycling

How much plastic does the office lunch hour generate? Carry our a waste audit to inform how you might reduce plastic waste in the office. Whereas plastic that makes it's 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 no 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 drink 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 the plastic that employees bring into 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 in which suppliers can help make a difference and if you can prompt them to make a change then it will help office managers to reduce their plastic waste.

Provide Reusable Gifts

Reducing plastic waste in the office is all about changing the habits of every single person 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 reusable items such as water bottles, coffee cups or even lunchboxes. 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 or hole punches. 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 plastic spoons, 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.

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

1Plastic Waste Inputs from Land into the Ocean. Jenna R. Jambeck, Roland Geyer, Chris Wilcox, Theodore R. Siegler, Miriam Perryman, Anthony Andrady, Ramani Narayan, Kara Lavender Law. Science, vol. 347, no. 6223, 13 Feb. 2015, pp. 768–771, doi:10.1126/science.1260352
2Plastic waste is all at sea, Michael Gross,
Featured in Plastic Pollution
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