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Forget me not – why waste should be given a voice in your business operations

Emily Ford
Apr 10, 2017

Why is waste management forgotten in businesses?

In many companies we find that waste management doesn’t have a home and is passed around like a hot potato. We often see that the day-to-day running of waste management fits in one department such as, facilities, logistics and operations; but the financials of the waste are dealt with by another department, for example, environment and finance. For many there is no communication between the day-to-day management of waste and the financials of waste and so it isn’t treated as a business operation in its own right but an operational output that can’t be controlled.

This disjointedness can make it difficult for individuals to make decisions on what to do as they don’t feel they have the authority. Having waste management split over departments can make it a daunting task, but with a considered approach you can achieve benefits for all.

Why is it worth remembering?

So, why should you take the initiative to drive effective waste management in your business? Well I hinted above that there are potential benefits for managing your waste effectively, they can include:

  • Saving money on waste through reviewing the costs and rebates you receive
  • Improving your environmental performance, such as reducing the waste produced and moving waste up the waste hierarchy
  • Identifying production inefficiencies by investigating what the root cause of the waste being generated is

These can all have positive knock-on effects for other areas of business such as procurement and logistics.

In order to achieve any of these benefits you need to be able to measure your current performance to understand what benefits you could achieve for your business.

A great place to start to get this information is to conduct a waste audit . This will allow you to check the types of waste you have, where it is arising, why it is created, how much waste you are creating and who is collecting your waste. Try speaking to your waste contractors to find out the quantity of waste you are producing if you can’t measure this yourself. When speaking to your contractors check whether they are collecting your waste themselves or sub-contracting any of your collections and what end-treatment facilities your waste goes to. Doing these steps should give you full visibility of your waste all the way to its end disposal.

Now you have your baseline information you can start to think about what goals you can realistically achieve. Setting aspirational goals should be accompanied with smaller goals to help you work towards your larger goal so that you don’t lose track. For many companies waste goals need to be in line with corporate objectives and show continuous improvement; so don’t forget these when considering what to do. This is a great time to engage with staff, senior management and your waste contractors; you’re unlikely to achieve any goals without their involvement or support.

Implementing changes and dealing with reality

Following on from my last point, staff engagement is one of the most important considerations you need to have when implementing changes so that you can achieve your waste and recycling goals. To get staff behind any changes, particularly those who are going to be affected by them, you will need to communicate the reasons why the goals are being put forward and how their work will help achieve them. It’s also good to show staff the progression towards the goals so they can have a sense of ownership on achieving them. If you have multiple sites you might want to try a bit of friendly rivalry to encourage them to increase their progress.

The picture painted so far is fairly rosy, but as with everything in life there are usually bumps in the road and other day-to-day realities of managing waste that you should bear in mind. See the table below:

Other Considerations


Action Required

Multiple sites and contractors

Varying reports and formats

Supply a template so you can collate these into one format

Ad-hoc collections

Multiple, changing or challenging waste streams

Engage with staff, so they can help keep you informed

Extensive paper trail

Licences, permits and exemptions to waste transfer notes, and hazardous waste consignment notes needs to be kept on file

Have a central storage system

I highlighted at the beginning of this blog that very few business have individuals or one department that are only responsible for environmental elements, so finding the time to dedicate to this work can be tough if you don’t have the senior support.

Still up to the challenge, but are not sure where to start or want to discuss with us further; we’re holding two free morning seminars first in London on Wednesday 19 April and then at our office in Stratford-upon-Avon on Tuesday 9 May, you can book onto these here


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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this weblog represent those of the individual authors and not those of Valpak Limited or any other organisation.