LEAN OFFICE: Reducing Office Waste

Reducing waste in any workplace requires the buy-in from all staff; so communicating the aims and objectives of any planned waste reduction scheme must be addressed at the outset.

After consideration of all the views presented, incorporating the most relevant suggestion, set meaningful targets – and agree these before continuing. Targets can be based on the costs of waste removal or quantities of waste but it is also necessary to look at the input costs – printer and other ;

When considering the quantities of waste being removed from the company’s premises; it is vital to address the issue of how did it get into the company to become waste in the first place; and was it essential to the operation of the business.

All materials arriving in the organisations environment is potential waste. It gets into the works by a number of ways – it is ordered; it is a petty cash purchase; it is given freely; it is posted through the letterbox, whether requested or not; staff and others bring it to work with them. 

Order less

Review all the inventory streams and discuss with those effected as to the necessity of individual items traditionally purchased. Are all the ranges of pens, markers, highlighters and posts-it notes really necessary. 

And while exploring the stationery cupboard take note of excessive stock or items that have a use by date; this will include first aid box resources.

Use less

  • Conduct your review of the materials and items you use and reduce their usage or do without them if feasible. Include everything purchased by the company.
  • Use less paper by not routinely printing out emails and attachments – be selective with what you print. Don’t print a few extra just in case.
  • Can meeting notes be read on a tablet just as easily as hard copy printed sheets.
  • Ensure that two sided duplex option is selected; and fit to page is a standard printer setting; thereby eliminating printing one or two lines on a separate sheet of paper.
  • When purchasing new office printer equipment; always research the most efficient, in terms of prints per cartridge – not just the cheapest or fastest. 
  • Stapleless staplers; this type of “stapler” punches a wing-shaped slit on one side; and then cuts out a kind of spade shaped tab; which inserts into the slit locking the sheets together. The best versions can secure up to 10 sheets of standard office paper; never by a staple or paper clip again.
  • Try to avoid mass-produced disposable ballpoint pens; encourage use of pens that refills can be purchased for; this will save waste and just about break even over time.
  • Poly pockets, ring binders and plastic wallets are for preserving material for a very long time; use only when absolutely vital.

Reuse and recycle 

Printer ink cartridges can be both reused (refilled and generally cheaper than buying a new cartridge) and recycled (many charities such as the RSPB https://www.rspb.org.uk/getinvolved/communityandadvice/greenliving/greenlivingathome/recycleprintercartridgeswithus/ earn donations from the recycling of used cartridges. Utmost care must be taken with disposing of ink cartridges as they are covered by the WEEE regulations.

  • Reuse any cardboard boxes and other packaging as office storage. 
  • Reuse paper that was printed on one side as note paper 
  • Reuse all poly pockets, ring binders and plastic wallets before ordering new supplies.
  • Recycle through segregating waste into separate streams

It’s free

Promotional Material isn’t free when you have to dispose of it; calenders; desk diaries; wall planners and the phalanx of novelty trinkets, sales literature and irrelevant brochures. These are commonly handed out at trade fairs and conferences; or supplied unsolicited; leave them there unless you have a burning interest; better still view the details online.

Likewise, control the material coming through your letterbox, you can tell Royal Mail to stop delivering junk mail to your address. Download a form from the Royal Mail website https://www.royalmail.com/sites/default/files/D2DOptOutApplicationForm2015.pdf  Fill it in and send it to the address on the form or email optout@royalmail.com. Other delivery services have similar schemes to stop unsolicited post. A note above your letterbox is also a deterrent to free newsletters and pizza deliveries.

Larger items

Unwanted office equipment can be disposed of by using one of the popular online action sites and free cycle networks. Office cabinets, no longer required due digitalisation of data replacing paper based records are in vogue and can be readily up-cycled. 

Extreme care must be taken on two main fronts when disposing of computer equipment, security and full compliance with the WEEE Regulations. These regulations cover monitors, printers, hard drives and circuit boards, a single computer can contain up to 2kgs of lead along with plastics; non-ferrous and ferrous metals; electronic boards and glass.

You can dispose of computer waste by returning the product to the manufacturer, taking the item to a professional waste disposal facility or donating the goods to a non-profit organisation.

Many companies decide to donate their electrical equipment to one of a number of non-profit organisations which collect electronic equipment including computers and printers, either for reuse or for de-manufacture and recycling. The new users will pay nothing for the equipment or buy it at a heavily discounted rate. Developing countries benefit most from these schemes, but beneficiaries also include community groups here in the UK.

If you decide to donate your PC to charity, be sure to check that:

  • Appropriate security measures are in place to prevent unauthorised access, alteration or accidental loss or destruction of personal data, which is a legal requirement Just the reformatting of the hard drive is not sufficient to permanently erase all data.
  • The donor organisation has a strategy for waste management once the equipment becomes obsolete, in its new role. Is there an ongoing programme for disposal or will your donated equipment still end up as waste somewhere else?
There are now more than fifty non-profit organisations in the UK which collect, renovate and supply computer equipment to deserving causes. 

A well-established and a global leader in not-for-profit IT equipment recycling is Computer Aid International, which has distributed thousands of computer systems in over 100 countries.

Another, a London based reuse/recycling project is OFFERS/Ex-IT is which has been set up in 1996 to help students, people on low income, Voluntary Sector Organisations (VSO’s) and small business start-ups to access to low cost computer equipment and office furniture and fittings. Their objective is to divert all forms of office waste away from landfill and back into reuse. 

Also, consider Digital Links a registered charity that re-purpose donated redundant computer equipment from UK based private and public organisations, they refurbish equipment and offer it to schools, community centres, hospitals and social enterprises in developing countries.’ 

Other peoples’ waste

  • If you have work carried out on your premises agree in advance, that contractors take all their own waste away with them. 
  • Your suppliers may have return schemes for packaging or you can negotiate these into arrangements.
  • Similarly, when you purchase new equipment, the suppliers can take the redundant machine away along with the packing the new machinery arrived in.
  • Discourage plastic drinks bottles, plastic straws, single use coffee cups and fast food wrappings being brought into the office – while communicating the benefits of avoiding these products.

Business waste 

The collection of business waste and recycling generally falls into these four categories – General, Dry Recycling, Food Waste and Glass. There are also categories for more specialist waste – Clinical and Hazardous waste, into which computer equipment and workstations fall.

In London a major waste collection organisation claims the following on their website “Recycling as much of your waste as possible not only helps the planet but also saves your business a lot of money – it’s over 30% cheaper to recycle than it is to create general waste.”

To obtain this saving it is crucial to segregate your waste into categories and have robust policies and procedures inplace to ensure the different wastes do not become mixed.

Housekeeping

Business will only truly benefit from waste reduction, in terms of environmental and commercial benefits with tighter control around many business functions. Success will be dependent on organisation and continued observance of processes and procedures. 

Set the standard, set the example

The leadership of the reduction initiative should come from the top. Most schemes of this kind succeed or fail on maintaining drive and enthusiasm, it is not a one day or week long programme but a continuous project which needs re-invigorating and improvement at regular intervals as the scheme matures. Lead by example and remain committed to the goals and aspiration agree at the outset of the project.

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