Introducing the Issue
Squandering resources is unsustainable and increasingly unjustifiable. As populations grow, so does resource use and the collection, transportation and disposal of waste. Waste commonly poses significant harmful impacts to both the environment and to people. Waste can and should be designed out of all business processes.
Contribute to the Development of the Reducing Waste Benchmark
Exploring the Issue
The collection, transportation and disposal of rubbish, sewage and other waste materials become increasingly important as populations grow, become wealthier, and more resources are used. Squandering resources is evidently unsustainable and increasingly morally unacceptable. Further, waste commonly poses significant harmful impacts to both the environment and people. Waste can and should be designed out of all business processes.
A lot of waste can be ‘invisible’ in that it might not be obvious that your organisation is producing it. For example, energy can be wasted on inconsiderate use of lighting and heating, and the unnecessary idling of computers and appliances. Poor maintenance can lead to energy inefficiency.
The amount of waste, and types, vary from organisation to organisation. Manufacturers, for example, are much more likely to produce much more waste, and more different types of waste, than other businesses.
Campaigners have had recent success in encouraging businesses away from designing in ‘built-in obsolescence,’ which is designing products which cannot be repaired, where broken components cannot be swapped out for new ones, or that need replacing so that the company can make new sales sooner than would otherwise be required.
Some products have been conceived and designed to tackle our waste problems head-on. For example, Fair Phone formed, in part, as a response to large manufacturers building in obsolescence in this way. Fair Phone creates phones that last, with an emphasis on sustainability, affordability, and easy repairs.
Fair Phone also encourages its customers to recycle old phones by sending them back to it, contributing to something called the ‘circular economy’ by recycling e-waste and helping put wasted material back into the economy.
The circular economy is a model of production and consumption, which involves sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials and products for as long as possible. Some more examples of businesses that live and breathe the circular economy include Toast Ale, which brews beer from wasted bread, Trove, which provides companies with the ability to buy back and resell their used product, AMP Robotics, which categorises recyclables in an efficient and error-free way, and Winnow, which helps kitchens identify how much and what kinds of food they’re wasting.
There are 5 basic categories of waste which apply to practically everyone: manufacturers, businesses, and individuals. They are as follows:
- Liquid waste
- Solid rubbish
- Organic waste
- Recyclable rubbish
- Hazardous waste
Waste management is the collection, transport, processing, and recycling of waste materials, while waste minimisation is the prevention and reduction of the use of materials, water, and energy consumption at the source. Drivers for an organisation to devise and adopt a waste minimisation strategy over a management strategy will depend on its size, sector, circumstances, priorities and opportunities.
A waste audit will likely include:
- Identifying all activities that produce waste
- Identifying ways to stop making waste
- Eliminating unnecessary waste production
- Determining how to reuse unavoidable waste
- Thinking about how to track progress in achieving targets for waste reduction
Links & Further Resources
This article gives some examples of how reducing waste can benefit your company. The benefits listed in the article are more direct benefits than the climate and moral implications of reducing waste in your business.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is a US government source whose mission is to protect human health and the environment. Their webpage is a useful resource for finding ways to reduce waste at your own company.