Commercial offices are in the business of commerce. This primarily consists of providing goods and services to customers—as well as employment and income to individuals around the world. However, the dirty little secret within most commercial offices is the amount of waste that is produced there… with little real plan for waste management. Hidden behind the computer screens, luxury waiting rooms, conference rooms and kitchen is a mountain of waste that, if left unchecked, will continue to contribute to the mounting waste problem facing the world. Your office needs a plan for waste management as much as a plan for anything else.
Owners and managers are usually focused on the bottom line, the next quarter or the yearly P/L statement. Rarely do they have the time and resources to commit to considering their own internal environmental questions. How much water is being used daily? How much paper is being thrown away? Is the office too hot or too cold? How many coffee cups are being used daily? And most importantly, what is the corporate eco culture in the office? More often than not, the eco culture is set the first day a new employee arrives. Establishing the right tone and expectations in the beginning—or changing the culture as needed—can go a long way in waste management. It is not only about saving resources and time… It is also about providing socially responsible leadership that will last for generations to come.
The First Step in Waste Management: Know What the Waste Is
Typical commercial office waste consists of:
- Toner cartridges
- Disposable cups, plates and utensils
- Electronic equipment
- Heating and cooling
Once you identify the types of office waste, the next step is to consider what is being done or can be done with the waste products. Elimination, reduction, recovery (recycling, reusing) and disposal are all options. First, categorize every waste product within your office. Then each should be analyzed separately and considered for everything from elimination to disposal.
- Eliminating Waste
It may not always be possible to eliminate waste. But there may be some things within your office that can be cut out altogether in an effort to reduce waste. Plastic or styrofoam plates, cups and utensils can be eliminated from the common kitchen. Maybe consider eliminating trash bins from underneath desks… Did you know that in Tokyo it is virtually impossible to find a trash can on any street corner?
- Reducing Waste
If you can’t eliminate it, reduce it. Printers are a major source of waste in an office. Reducing the amount of paper that is available for printing or eliminating printing altogether are strategies that can be used. Be sure to send your used printer and toner cartridges back to the supplier, using the packaging provided. Some offices have even decided to go paperless. Consider also reducing office moves; installing water fountains instead of can or bottle vending machines; and using eco-friendly cleaning products, which may help reduce water usage.
This may be the most important factor of office waste management. Recovery basically includes recycling or reusing office materials. Recycle all paper… and all eligible plastic, glass and metal products. (See our Recycle Better blog post.) And check your options for “recycling” electronics such as old computers, monitors and printers. (See our E-Cycling blog post).
It is inevitable that some office waste will still need to be disposed of. However, monitoring your consumption and output—and making efforts to reduce waste disposal—is a worthy and honorable goal in any office’s social contract with the environment.
Takeaway: How to Implement a Commercial Office Waste Management Strategy
- Assess all the waste generated in your office. Keep track of how much is produced on a monthly or weekly basis.
- Separate waste into the four action categories: elimination, reduction, recovery and disposal.
- Strategize with your team regarding methods to reduce office waste.
- Create a corporate eco culture of waste management from the top down.
- Set and meet goals for office waste management.
Most people don’t think too much about the trash we throw away… But some of us think about it a lot. At Patriot Sanitation Management, we’ve made it our business to figure out how to generate less, dispose of less and manage waste better. To learn more about our services—and how we can help you reduce, reuse and recycle—contact us today for your free commercial waste removal estimate.