Marina Bradford is a sustainability and procurement consultant, helping organisations implement sustainable operational practices and leverage buying power for positive change. Her specific interest is around resource efficiency, waste management and impact business models.
Marina has kindly offered her advice on how we can reduce waste through purchasing decisions.
Waste management is a challenge that is relevant in every aspect of our personal and professional lives. It might seem daunting and complicated but there are simple steps we all individually can take that will help us make a difference.
A good starting place is the work environment – the activities you are involved in every day. By making the changes below you can help:
- Save money by avoiding buying unnecessary items often.
- Reduce waste – it might not stay in your office, but it does stay in your country.
- Reduce pollution – the less is thrown away, the less stays in the environment.
- Create awareness – by seeing changes, people around will start thinking about what else they can do.
- Help drive bigger change – by demonstrating an environmentally friendly alternative, you can help educate others, who might in turn consider their actions too.
Ideas to consider when hosting meetings
- Look into making the following swaps.
- Tell the meeting attendees that you are making this effort and explain to them why. Seeing government officials lead the way is likely to make others follow this example, creating a greater impact.
Choosing drinks to reduce waste
|Leave this||Try this|
|Single use plastic cups||
Offer attendees reusable cups or glasses.
You might choose a ceramic, glass, steel or other materials– depending on what is available locally.
|Bottled water||Water jugs or water dispensers.|
|Instant coffee sachets and capsules||Freshly ground coffee from coffee beans served in jugs or thermos.|
|Disposable coffee cups||Offer mugs or other reusable options for hot beverages.|
|Teabags||Loose leaf tea brewed in pots or individual tea infusers.|
|Individual bottled drinks||Larger bottles, drinks in glass packaging or drinks dispensing machines.|
Help reduce the amount of plastic waste polluting the environment by installing a water cooler and using reusable glasses, cups or bottles.
Choosing food and snacks to reduce waste
|Leave this||Try this|
|Individual wrapped snacks||Bulk-buy the snacks and keep them fresh. Dispense sufficient amounts them for each meeting in serveware.|
|Coffee stirrers, plastic cutlery||Metal cutlery and real dishes and plates.|
|Condiments (sugar, salt pepper, sauces, sugar, creamer etc.) in individual sachets||
Regular size packaging with the necessary quantity served when needed.
One bin for all kind of waste including food
A separate bin for food waste. Find a local business that can collect the food waste and turn it into compost.
Turn food into compost and use it to improve soil in the garden outside of your offices.
Plastic carrier bags
Reusable bags or other locally available materials e.g. woven baskets, palm leaves etc. The best material is the one that is available locally and can be processed locally, without creating additional waste burden.
You could even set up a carrier bag sharing point – it saves staff each coming back to the office with a new disposable bag.
Plastic cling film
|If you are using cling film for storage of leftovers, you could try covering it with textile napkin, keep it in Tupperware boxes or glass jars. You can also put a plate on top of the plate with leftovers!|
|Throw food leftovers||Ask your helpers to monitor how much food is thrown away weekly and try to encourage your colleagues to reduce the waste.|
Ideas to consider around the office
- Look into making the following changes.
- Let the office staff know what you are trying to do and ask them to come up with other ideas that they think might help in reducing waste.
- Put up posters around the office letting people know what to do with the paper/plastic they have and why it is important to reduce the waste (include the waste hierarchy of Reduce – Reuse – Recycle – Dispose on the posters).
- Ask your cleaning team to monitor how much and what type of waste they collect from your office.
- Try to set targets to reduce this week on week – try a competition board between government department teams?
|Leave this||Try this|
|Printing out paperwork||
Reading documents digitally
If printing is necessary, print double sided and black and white
Use recycled paper, where available
|Signing and approving documents in paper||Use e-sign system for signature and/or comments. Some examples may be Hellosign, Docusign, Adobe signature etc|
|Mix all waste in one bin||Keep a separate waste bin for paper, glass and general waste.|
New printing cartridges
|Use refillable printing cartridges, if already available in the area|
|New batteries||Rechargeable batteries|
Talk to your office suppliers and ask them to:
- Offer you options without single-use plastic.
- Reduce the amount of packaging they use on the items they supply to you.
- Consider take-back options if the items come to end of life for some of the items they supply to you e.g. printers, IT equipment, phones.
- Confirm where the items that they supply can be disposed of. They might not have the answers straight away, but ask them to investigate.
- Minimise supply of the items that cannot be disposed of and recycled locally.
- Find local businesses that might be able to use any of the waste to make something valuable e.g. furniture and paving tiles out of plastic, recycle glass & paper.
Do you have other ideas? Why not share them on social media and remember to tag @WasteAid