Cutting the amount of waste your business produces isn't just good for the environment - it can also save your business money. A good waste minimisation programme looks at your whole business and will identify where to reduce waste. Getting a strategic overview of your business and its waste will help you to make the most effective choices.
Conduct a waste management audit
Take a walk around your premises, noting down the quantities and direct costs of any wastes that you can see. If you can't work these out easily, make simple estimates to provide an approximate idea of the situation. Identify the major sources such as packaging waste, waste lubricants and wastewater.
Examine your processes and business activities more formally by all other means, from talking to employees to examining your business' documentation.
For example, are you duplicating your invoice and reminder processes - sending out product information both in hard-copy and by email - or are your packaging and paperwork requirements over-specified? Could raw-material wastage be cut by redesigning your products?
When considering the costs of waste don't just look at raw materials wasted. You also need to consider other costs such as decreased efficiency of production processes and additional waste-disposal costs.
For more detailed information see how to carry out an environmental review of your business.
Create a waste management action plan
A waste management action plan sets out your priorities for tackling waste in your business.
Focus on some relatively cheap and easy waste-reduction measures to begin with. Even a service-based business could look at ways of recycling more paper. For example:
- Look at the information you collected for your waste audit.
- Identify the areas where there are large quantities of waste and the highest net costs, eg in the shape of waste disposal costs, energy consumption, packaging waste and raw material wastage.
- Talk to staff involved in the activities that produce this waste. They may be able to suggest ways to reduce waste - perhaps by replacing or repairing machinery or changing working practices. Or they might tell you that a process is inefficient because they aren't adequately trained to operate key equipment.
For more information see our introduction to waste management.
Getting the involvement of employees or raising awareness through training initiatives will improve the results of your waste-reduction strategy.
Turning waste management ideas into action
You can now start developing ideas to prevent waste from being generated. Brainstorming sessions can be a good way of doing this. If possible, work out the savings you stand to gain from the best ideas. Weigh these up against the potential costs and timescales of implementing the necessary changes.
Once you have chosen a few key ideas to put into action, set out what the key actions are and the deadlines for achieving them.
You'll need to select someone to co-ordinate your waste-reduction programme. To ensure they have the necessary authority they should be a senior member of staff, or someone with access to management.
For more information see how to improve your environmental performance.