October 19 to 25th is waste reduction week in Canada. Households across the country are making a real effort to reduce the amount of waste produced at home, however, there may also be some actions you can take at the office to cut down on trash.
How to Save Money and Trees
Office paper can be a big expense if large amounts of it are used in daily operations. One way to cut down on the use of paper is to use both sides before it hits the recycle bin. Many printouts that are intended for internal use can utilize the other side of an already-printed sheet of paper. You might be concerned that this could change how the printer works, but I can assure you most printers work just fine with pre-printed sheets. You just need to try a test sheet to see which way to load the printer drawer, so that you don’t get your work printed on the already-used side. It is not difficult to designate one tray for “draft” paper and one for “final” paper. Employees quickly learn which tray to request for their print jobs.
If you want to go one step further: why print at all? Many pages that are printed out could actually just be stored in an electronic archive. Gone are the days of printing everything and putting it into a paper folder.
Tossing Wasteful Plastic Pens
Many offices use disposable plastic pens for their employees because these pens appear to be the least expensive way to provide writing implements for the staff. It is rare for any of these pens to get recycled. There are just too many different materials to make recycling practical when it comes to these kinds of pens. Why buy plastic pens and then throw them away? A one-time expense of a refillable pen makes a lot more environmental sense and the refills only cost about $3 to $4. (Of course, you can pay much more, but for an office that is watching their budget these lower cost refills are a great move towards reducing your waste.) In addition, customized refillable pens make good work anniversary gifts for employees.
Avoiding the “Landfill Lunch”
Waste at work doesn’t just involve office supplies, we all need to eat lunch while we are there. Mealtime is another place where we can all make greater efforts to reduce waste. Plenty of schools participate in activities such as the Waste Free Lunch Challenge. This challenge encourages kids and parents to create waste free lunches. According to the Recycling Council of Ontario, the average student produces approximately 30 kg of waste per school year. The bagged lunches of office workers likely produce a similar amount of waste, meaning 350,000 workers’ lunches could translate into over 10,000 tonnes of garbage entering the landfill annually.
Office workers could make a difference just by changing how they bring their lunch to work (think cloth napkins, glass containers, etc.) or by avoiding take-out lunch establishments that serve food with disposable plastic cutlery, Styrofoam plates made from polystyrene, and restaurants that serve drinks with black plastic straws in every beverage.
The Ocean Conservancy found in 2014 that 6 of the top 10 contributors to marine debris were single-use, or disposable, plastic products. They include food and beverage container caps and lids, beverage bottles, plastic bags, food wrappers, flatware (i.e., cups, plates and cutlery) and drinking straws. When these items are littered, or caught by the wind, they get washed into stormwater drains that empty into streams, rivers, bays and other waterways.
The fact that polystyrene is light and does not weigh much is what originally attracted people to using it, but it also explains how so much of it has accumulated along coasts and waterways and has become unwanted marine debris around the world.
What Has STP Done to Reduce Waste?
Just this past year, Specialty Technical Publishers has begun to compost organics in our office kitchen. We keep a container next to the garbage can that is for all compostable items, such as tea bags, apple cores, food-soiled napkins, etc.
STP recently stopped producing CD-ROMs to reduce our ecological footprint and we are also starting to phase out paper publications. Our products are available in online versions, which means using a lot less paper, no binders and the amount of shipping we do is vastly reduced. Not only does this cut down on waste, our subscribers are able to search content online, access publications anywhere and avoid shipping and handling costs. To access an online subscription to any of our publications, please call 1-800-251-0381.
Places to Get More Ideas
In February 2015, the EPA released a new Marine Debris and Plastic Source Reduction Toolkit for Colleges and Universities that is worth looking at for waste reduction ideas in your workplace.
Living in British Columbia, we have something called a “Recyclepedia” where you can look online to see where an item will be accepted for recycling. The Recyclepedia also has a Road to Zero Waste program that increases awareness and understanding of solid waste, sustainability, recycling programs and other waste reduction principles.
Jane Dunne is a Senior Editor at Specialty Technical Publishers and she is currently working on an update for Environmental Auditing: Federal Compliance Guide.