Top tips for a Zero Waste Office

While many of us are becoming more conscious of what we waste at home, and are making efforts to improve on this, work environments are often left behind when it comes to environmentally-friendly practices. Offices in particular can be fairly habitual environments, where things don’t change very much from year to year, and waste-related actions are certainly included in this stagnancy.

In this article I’ll give you some ideas to suggest to your boss, or implement if you are the boss, for creating a low waste or zero waste workplace.

  • Stop using the printer

Do you really need to print anything? Probably not. Stop printing documents out altogether, or if that’s truly not an option in your sector, then consider printing on recycled paper, and printing on both sides. Reduce your page margins, and print in black and white draft mode, unless it is an important document. Purchase refillable ink cartridges and you can sell your empties back to certain companies too, to be recycled. If you scan a document, save it as a file instead of printing it out. And if you post letters out, then switch to smaller envelopes: this will use less paper, and might also save the company money on postage.

  • Sort your office bins out

A shocking number of offices still just have one large bin, or sometimes several smaller ones, for one waste steam: mixed general waste. This means that every single item in these bins is being sent to landfill! Not only is this problem easy to rectify, but it will save your manager a fair amount of money too; it is cheaper to recycle than to send waste to landfill. So there’s no excuses. You will need to alter your office’s business waste management package or find a new supplier, and then you just need to supply a few bins in the office itself for your various recycling waste streams (paper/cardboard, plastics, glass, etc.).

  • Cut down on packaging
Photo: Dragon Images
Photo copyright: Dragon Images

Office deliveries often come with an abundance of unnecessary packaging. You could contact the suppliers and ask them to use less packing material, or if your business posts items out then you can simply reuse it all. Otherwise you could list it on Freecycle – those Freecyclers who sell online will jump at the chance of free packaging.

  • Avoid paper sticky notes

Paper sticky notes can’t be recycled due to the sticky patch, so they are best avoided altogether. Instead, there is an app on Windows called Sticky Notes which adds notes to your computer screen in a very similar style. If you really must continue to use paper sticky notes, then use a pencil and keep rubbing your notes out.

  • Provide decent coffee

If your office workers or colleagues tend by bring take-out coffee into the office with them in ‘disposable’ cups, invest in a decent coffee machine for the office and provide ceramic mugs (also, reusable cutlery and crockery). This one change would make a big difference to the environment. It could also stop your workers popping out to grab a coffee during working hours!

  • Repair and reuse

Instead of buying new furniture, simply repair or alter what you already have in the office. If new furniture is a must, then recycle your old furniture by donating it to charity or selling it on, and consider purchasing second-hand furniture too.

  • Compost your food waste

Most offices produce an abundance of food waste. What can you do about it? See if your business waste management provider collects food waste. They should do, but if not then consider changing provider or implementing a compost system – if this isn’t possible in the office grounds itself, then a member of staff could take it home with them for their personal compost bin.

Photo copyright: Milkos
Photo copyright: Milkos

A few extra notes

Encourage your employees or colleagues by sending emails around, reminding them about recycling and zero waste. Track your office waste output, and plan a bi-annual meeting to discuss your efforts as a company, including where improvements could be made. You could also encourage employees/colleagues to bring their lunch in from home in reusable containers, banishing the dreaded single-use foil and cling film.

Feature photo copyright: stokkete

Published by

Lucy Ravenhall

Lucy is a long-standing editor of the Forge Recycling blog and loves writing about her environmental passions.