Why recycling is everybody's business

Written by: Jonathan Richardson | Published:
Jonathan Richardson

Buzzwords like ‘eco-friendly’ and ‘sustainable’ shouldn’t just apply to households, its time businesses step up to their duty of care over waste.

The incentives — or deterrents — are there: producing too much waste will cost your business. Landfill tax now stands at an eye-watering £88.95 per tonne in a government-led bid to encourage more recycling, while you can add anything from £2 to £82 per tonne for landfill gate fees. And yet a quarter of all waste in England is generated by businesses, according to the Waste Resources Action Programme (WRAP).

We all have a responsibility to look after the environment, but the mass media has a tendency to focus on domestic and consumer waste. The recent calls for households to reduce their use of plastics should not overshadow the crucial role businesses must play in the UK’s recycling efforts.

This isn’t just about corporate social responsibility — although showing that you’re mindful of your impact on the world as a business can certainly improve your reputation with prospective and existing clients, staff and the wider public — it’s actually a legal obligation.

However small or large your organisation, you have a legal duty of care over your waste. According to the government, this means keeping waste to a minimum by doing everything you reasonably can to prevent, reuse, recycle or recover waste (in that order).

You also need to ensure that the contractors you hire to collect, handle and transport your waste meet certain criteria — holding a waste carriers license, for example, and providing a waste transfer note, which you both complete for every recycling collection.

In it together

But there are also best practice measures you can take internally to make your recycling activities a truly collective effort. Of course, it can be difficult to enforce a change in everyday practices among staff, but hopefully most people are engaging in recycling at home so it shouldn’t require a huge amount of change management in the workplace.

Informing your employees that you’re implementing a recycling scheme via internal emails and newsletters should be the first step. Leading by example is also important, so managers should be encouraged to adopt the new recycling procedures and spread the message. And incentivising the new scheme — for example, by offering a reward to the department that recycles the most waste — can work well.

Depending on how far your business is going with its efforts, you could also add posters in the kitchen reminding staff to rinse out their food and drinks packaging before disposing of them in the correct containers.


But it’s paper that’s often the biggest culprit for a messy office, and not only that — since GDPR was implemented it’s also an unnecessary data breach risk.

This can be addressed by familiarising yourself with data retention periods to prevent records being kept longer than they need to, watching out for piles of paper hanging around and keeping on top of documents so they don’t begin to stack up.

You could think about implementing a clear desk policy. There are lots of free resources to help implement and communicate clear desk and document destruction policies, and recycling and waste companies often offer helpful material as well. WRAP also offers guidance to office-based businesses around setting up a recycling scheme and finding the right waste contractor.

Some office managers choose to remove under-desk waste paper bins in a bid to encourage employees to use recycling bins — although it’s advisable to warn staff beforehand and explain your reasoning behind the move.

It’s also a good idea to give staff the opportunity to provide feedback and suggestions of their own for creating a more clutter-free working environment and adopting a ‘greener’ culture in general.

Small changes can make a huge difference, and not just to the day-to-day running of your business — there are also financial savings to be made. Some paper shredding and recycling services even offer rebates for large volumes of waste.

And even if you only focus on recycling paper waste as a starting point, you’ll be doing the environment a huge favour while fostering a renewed sense of cohesion and eco-consciousness among your team members.

Jonathan Richardson is MD of secure shredding and recycling company Russel Richardson.

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