Waste Management & Recycling

Effective recycling and waste management in the workplace


As the legislative landscape around waste management and recycling continues to shift in line with the EU drive to become more environmentally friendly, it is important for FM professionals to be aware of current and upcoming changes and how these are likely to affect clients. Alastair Little, head of corporate accounts at Biffa, outlines the key waste and recycling issues for FMs.

Since 1st January 2015, UK waste regulations have required businesses that recycle to fully segregate their waste into general waste and recyclables in a bid to improve the quantity and quality of recycling materials.

This change is in line with the commitments set out in the EU Waste Framework Directive, requiring all Member States to implement measures to ensure four key waste materials – paper/card, metals, glass and plastic – are collected separately from other waste for recycling.

With this in mind, adopting a holistic view of waste management in the workplace is now more important than ever for FMs. Waste solutions need to be site specific –   tailored to closely manage waste and recyclables that are coming in and going out, to ensure maximum efficiency.

  1. Responsibility for segregation

Current regulations mean it is now the legal responsibility of waste collection companies and authorities – rather than the businesses which produce the waste – to ensure appropriate arrangements are made to facilitate separate collection.

While these new UK regulations affecting England, Wales and Northern Ireland do not legally require the waste producer to segregate materials, those in Scotland do.

The ‘Zero Waste Scotland’ legislation, which came into effect in January 2014, imposed regulations on the producer of the waste to segregate recyclables, meaning Scottish businesses must carry out segregated recycling by law.

Although businesses across the rest of the UK are currently not legally required to segregate their waste in the same way – only waste collectors are subject to the legislation – it is likely that more onus will be pushed onto the producer in the near future.

  1. TEEP Requirements

The European Waste Framework Directive sets out clear requirements on dealing with waste only where it is ‘Technically, Environmentally and Economically Practicable’ – TEEP.

This means that where the collection of segregated waste materials would involve excessive costs, additional emissions from transport (from a waste collector having to travel long distances to pick it up), or another associated technical complication, it is not necessary to comply with the legislation.

To ensure that collections meet these TEEP requirements, the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) has produced a handy route map. External waste management partners can also offer advice on this.

  1. The cost implications

FM professionals who have waste management services as part of their Soft FM or Total FM contracts need to be aware of the possible cost implications that these legislative changes may bring to their contractual agreements and renegotiate and amend them as required.

It is likely that increased segregation of a facility’s recyclable waste streams could lead to additional costs. This is important to address, particularly where FM contracts are priced as a whole package, with waste being just one part, typically five per cent of the total FM costs.

However, once a robust segregated waste and recycling plan is in place, FMs can offset costs with the financial rewards that will arise from effective management of recyclable waste materials.

  1. Being environmentally friendly

Improving the approach to waste management is not just about complying with legislation; many clients are increasingly driven by environmental targets and are therefore asking more of their FM professionals to ensure they provide the most carbon efficient and environmentally positive solution.

Waste is also moving higher up the agenda in FM tenders, and while it remains a small expense in comparison to cleaning, catering or security costs, the green credentials associated with effective waste management are strong – good news for a business’ top line.

  1. Educating employees

One of the challenges faced by FMs is making sure that both their own cleaning staff and client employees working on the sites are informed of the recycling solutions available to them.

In larger businesses, it is often beneficial to appoint ‘waste experts’ responsible for monitoring compliance and seen as the go-to internal person to educate or remind staff of their recycling obligations.

Training cleaning staff is key as they are generally the people who are transferring the waste from internal bins to the external containers. Therefore, they need to ensure that they understand the journey of waste and the importance of segregation. This can be as simple as using the correct bags internally and then transferred into the correct external container.

In addition, a knowledge of what can and cannot be recycled and how to maximise capacity in the external bins is vital, for example, breaking down cardboard boxes to ensure there is more space and to avoid unnecessary collections.


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