Sustainability is not just a buzzword. More than ever, sustainability matters to us, and it guides our choices.
People everywhere are starting to take more notice of their environmental impact, and they’re looking to invest in, and buy from, more eco-conscious businesses.
Consumers are demonstrating their commitment to sustainability by carefully selecting what products they buy and their sources. Employees are opting to work for sustainable organisations, and organisations are stepping up and taking strides to becoming more environmentally-friendly.
When it comes to waste management, being green isn’t just an option — it’s a legal requirement. Businesses in the UK are obliged to consider carefully the types of waste they produce, and they are required to dispose of it appropriately.
Your Legal Responsibility as an Organisation
If you operate a business within the UK, you have a responsibility (and legal obligation) under the Environment Protection Act 1990, to safely dispose of any waste your organisation produces. The Environment Protection Act also states businesses must prevent waste from causing damage to people or the environment. You are also obliged to ensure any waste collection providers you employ are fully licensed.
What Is Commercial Waste?
Every business will produce waste of some sort. Waste includes anything you are no longer using, including cleaning products, paper, food, plastic, glass, washroom waste and electronic equipment (WEEE), to name a few. The type of waste your business produces will depend on the nature and size of your company. Depending on your industry, you might also have to consider clinical and hazardous waste.
Hazardous waste poses a risk to the environment and public health. It is waste that is:
- Flammable or explosive
- Reactive to other elements or compounds
- Carcinogenic or mutagenic
When businesses fail to dispose of waste adequately, we see a negative impact on people, communities and the environment.
What Are the Consequences of Poor Waste Management?
One of the most significant consequences of poor waste management relates to the environment. Piles of rubbish create blocked waterways and impede draining systems. But when hazardous waste gets into our water supply, it can have a far-reaching impact on wildlife and, ultimately, human health.
Improperly managed waste can be a breeding ground for insects, rats and other creatures that pose issues (in terms of safety and expense), when their populations get out of hand. Such creatures can also carry diseases, posing a further health risk.
Of course, improper disposal of hazardous waste is of huge concern. Such waste can leak, causing soil contamination that can affect plant growth — as well as health issues for any people eating these plants. There is also a more direct and dangerous impact on human health if one comes into contact with hazardous waste.
Exposure to hazardous waste can result in the following conditions (to name just a few):
- Eye and skin irritation
- Chemical burns
- Difficulty breathing
- Genetic mutations.
Make Environmentally Sound Choices
When it comes to waste management, it helps when organisations make greener choices at every stage. The concept of reduce, reuse and recycle isn’t only for individuals — organisations should also be putting thought into the products they’re using and how they can operate in ways that ultimately produce less waste.
Businesses should procure carefully. Buy only what is needed, streamline processes across departments and buy in bulk where possible. When it comes to “reusing” waste, businesses can consider using refillable toner and ink-jet cartridges and donating old furniture. And, of course, there are always more ways we can recycle electrical equipment to comply with waste legislation.
How to Manage Your Waste Effectively
Regardless of the size of your business, you need to ensure you comply with legislation and regulations regarding waste management. One way your business can safeguard itself is to conduct a waste management audit. Some companies offer these audits free of charge, and they will explore the type of waste your organisation produces, how much it produces and how you need to dispose of each type. An audit will help you better understand your organisation’s waste operations and what solutions are required to tackle your current challenges.
Ultimately, you can reduce waste costs and your impact on the environment by adopting total waste management principles . Total waste management includes everything from recycling, waste recovery, treatment, disposal and commodity trading. It will ensure compliance, give you peace of mind and, ultimately, save your business time and money.
It is important to keep in mind that waste management will be an ongoing consideration for your business, that you should continuously revisit. As your business grows and adapts, your waste will change, which means the way you manage your waste will need to change. Keeping on top of your waste will not only ensure legal compliance, but it will demonstrate to your employees, clients, and customers that the environment and the health of your employees is an ongoing passion and priority.