The Construction Industry is the backbone of the UK economy. 2.9 million people are employed in it, and it contributes £90 million annually (ref. Competitive Advantage). Seeing as it’s such as massive part of our lives, obviously this brings environmental concerns when it comes to waste disposal. In this blog post, therefore, we have highlighted some of those concerns, especially those which are most prominent here in the North-West.
Waste management might not be something we think of on a daily basis. Especially when we’re at work. A business will generate more waste than an average household. Ten times over. Be it paper waste, water waste, technology waste or a lack of recycling bins- waste is happening, and it isn’t good.
This is something that needs to change. As a business, you can actually help with waste management more than you think and there are financial and reputation based benefits in doing so. Many businesses have embraced a zero waste attitude and are helping the environment, and themselves in the process.
Some waste management facts can be shocking to hear, but amongst them are equally shocking positives that come out of it. If you are a business that needs to update their recycling ethos, then these facts may help.
- It’s unlikely a business doesn’t use a computer and maybe a few of them. In fact, it’s used so much that one day it will burn out and break down. Probably heading straight for a skip on its way to the landfill. But computers can be recycled, unfortunately we ignore this and dump around 50 million tons of electrical equipment every year. Ctrl-Alt-Delete.
- How many times have you had to file away paperwork? Shred it? Print it? Sign it? Chuck it? Enough times to cut down 4 million trees a year. Tonnes and tonnes of paper just heading to a landfill, when really recycled paper can be turned into something new in just seven days. Your weekly copy of metro you pick while travelling to work could be the same you picked up last week. The only new thing is the scandals.
- Companies can benefit from attempting a zero waste to landfill ethic. The avoidance of diverting company waste to a landfill and trying for a complete reuse of waste could save a company £500 a month in landfill tax. Maybe more. The office Christmas party just got a little bit fancier, just turn off the printer at the wall.
- A companies landfill efforts are vetted by third party verification parties. There are three categories a business can be fitted into. Zero Waste to Landfill:Products, facilities and/or organizations that have achieved a landfill waste diversion rate of 100 percent. Virtually Zero Waste to Landfill: Those that have achieved a landfill diversion rate of 98 percent or greater. Landfill Waste Diversion: For those that have achieved landfill waste diversion rates of 80 percent or greater. A lot of customers like the idea of using a company whose mind is also on the environment. Waste not want not.
- Water waste is something we forget needs management. In a business setting you have multiple people using the bathroom. People going in and out every day flushing toilets and leaving taps on. A leaky tap could waste around 5000 litres of water, what happens if someone leaves the tap fully on? Water rates don’t pay themselves and the planet doesn’t save itself.
- Lighting in offices is usually made up from those florescent tubes with one that always flickers in the corner of the room ominously. These are rarely disposed of in an environmentally friendly way. That’s leaves us with 80 million tubes and 4 tonnes of mercury scattered about in a landfill.
- By building healthy waste management habits, one small business can help the world. This can be hard work, but there are companies out there that specifically help business become more sustainable. A good investment for your business and the world your business lives in.
The starting point for any discussion about waste management has to be any legislation that has changed the industry. Perhaps most crucial, is the EU Waste Framework Directive, which came into force in December 2008. EU directives have provided long-term vision and guidance for waste management in the UK, particularly in terms of recycling and environmental risks and hazards.
Indeed, the EU directives require all EU member states to prevent or reduce waste products and encourage the recovery of waste by recycling, reuse or reclamation where possible.
Other legislation that businesses should be aware of are:
But what is waste? Waste is defined as:
A material is considered to be waste when the producer or holder discards it, intends to discard it, or is required to discard it.
Businesses must be contracted to a registered waste carrier to collect their waste; these registered carriers must be registered with the Environment Agency – and it is the responsibility of the business to ensure that those who remove waste, have the authority to do so. Registered waste carriers will issue a Waste Carrier Note, which businesses must keep for two year – it is essential that these are kept, as local councils can legal ask to show these – failure to do so can lead to an unlimited fine.
If your business deals with food, it is essential to know the rules on this, as there are strict rules on animal by-products and other potentially dangerous contaminants.
Other forms of waste maybe hazardous too – if it contains things such as batteries, solvents, chemicals, oils or pesticides – then this may need to be disposed of through special means, due to the environment damage or contamination that it can cause. Check here for more information.
Electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) waste, is another major problem for businesses in the modern world. This is complex due to the many components that they contain, and not only do they do not biodegrade, but they can also contain contaminants – things like printer ink, or cathode ray tubes, for example. Much of can be repurposed, when using specialist WEEE waste experts. For more information on this, and to check on what types of waste this is and how to go about disposing of it – check here.
Waste management can be a major headache for any firm, but with some research and a logical approach – it can help businesses save money and help the environment.
Why is waste management important?
Unlike hundreds of years ago, most of our waste increasingly belongs in the biodegradable category. This means simple waste management techniques such as burying and burning aren’t as effective any more. Here’s a few reasons why waste management is very important today…
Waste management can be profitable
Recycling and waste management can lead to bigger profits for companies – especially in the food industry. Simply by planning and portioning ingredients, as well as keeping an efficient supply chain, companies such as restaurants, supermarkets and food factories can boost profits by as much as 10%. This also applies to other industries such as construction – where tightening up stock control can save on waste and increase profits.
Boost company reputation
Efficient waste management and recycling can boost your reputation in your industry. Potential and existing customers will see you as a responsible and sustainable company that cares about the environment, the future and the population.
It preserves the environment
Unfortunately we can’t simply burn all waste we come across. This is because it releases toxins, pollutes the air and can even contribute towards the destruction of the ozone layer. Some waste is hazardous and may cause harm to the environment. This includes plants, animals and habitats. Toxic materials can kill off living things and pollute bodies of water such as lakes and rivers.
Reduces production costs
An incredible benefit of waste management is it can cut overall production costs in the long run. Recycling helps to conserve natural resources such as glass, plastic, paper and oil. Reusing these materials will place less strain on our natural resources and lower the cost of production.
Increases safety in the workplace and community
Waste materials can be harmful to your workers, as well as the surrounding environment. It can save your employees and visitors from illness and accidents at work. This could include anything from putting your rubbish in the bin to sorting out waste into the correct recycling containers.
Adheres to CO2 targets
Carbon Reduction Commitment targets can be set by local authorities, designed to reduce CO2 emissions. The 2008 Climate Change Act in the UK is one of the world’s first legal climate change initiatives. The idea is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% between the years 1990 and 2050. Effective waste management can cover this act, so your company will be up to date with all legal requirements regarding waste.
Try as we might, we can’t ever avoid risk. Even when we’re trying to do something as positive as waste management. As business, you try to avoid risk at all costs. Depending on what kind of business you’re in, and if you’re in a waste management industry job, you probably fill out risk assessments on a weekly, if not daily basis. But what are the hidden risks? The ones that slip under the radar and catch you out at the last moment. Some are easily forgotten or not even thought about, but unfortunately, be it in law, personal injury or environmental damage, it won’t matter how hidden the risks are.
Doesn’t sound as nitty gritty as hazardous waste but like everything waste management has some hefty rules and a lot of those could be ones that a business may not think about. Waste management is more than following the three R’s. The definition of ‘waste’ differs throughout legal literature and it’s important that there’s someone or several people making sure that any hidden waste management laws are dealt with and not purring your business at legal risk.
- Legal Risks.
This isn’t just the toxic, green, acid like substance we see in tv and film. But chemical and biological waste such as car batteries, bleach, varnishes, dead animal carcasses, straw, hay needle, human waste, garden products and much, much more. All of these things can cause harm to someone in contact with them. While some of these wastes may seem obviously hazardous (human waste, carcasses, bleach ect) things like garden products, straw, hay and batteries may slip under the radar, risking harm to others. Obviously the biggest risk with hazardous waste is the harm to employee’s interacting with it. This can be through several ways…
- Hazardous Waste
As stated before, things like needles count as hazardous waste. Therefore if someone’s skin is penetrated with a needle or sharp object, then they are exposed to any kind of contamination and are at risk. It can often be something overlooked as especially if the waste is a mass and hasn’t been organised into categories or managed effectively.
- Risk of Injection.
This doesn’t just mean hands or through cuts and grazes. A thing that is often caught out is the contact with eyes that also counts as a skin contact. Anything that is getting involved with eye membrane and mucus is going to cause damage.
- Skin Contact
Breathing around waste is a risk. And a hidden one at that. Asbestos, gas and all other inhalable toxins lurk in waste. Hidden from sight until someone takes that deep breath before starting work on waste management. Things like masks should be provided by an employer but even regular health checks for employees could be a good thing to offer, minimising this hidden risk.
- Inhalation Risks
Sounds odd, but it is a genuine risk for something working in waste management. From machinery to the deafening noise of glass collection and methods of recycling. Over time this can become quite a dangerous thing for work.
- Noise Risks
Whatever your position in waste management, you know that it’s an environment to stay clean and hygienic in. Poor hygiene practises amongst staff, poor hygiene education and/or lack of proper washing facilities can make those waste management risks even riskier and harder to spot.
- Personal Hygiene- Or lack of.