What business owners need to know about waste management

Resource Recovery

February 27, 2018

Tags: Waste audits

Updated: 31 Oct 2019

Small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) make a huge contribution to Australia’s economic growth, but as a result they also generate a lot of waste – through rubbish and maintenance. Despite this, recent reports indicate that only one in seven Australian businesses are planning to implement a waste and recycling management plan.

Why aren’t SMEs recycling more?

Recycling is too expensive. While an additional service for recycling may seem like added cost, your general waste bin is charged by weight so the heavier it is, the more expensive it is. By diverting common recyclables like glass, cardboard and food waste, you can save a huge amount on your general waste bill.

We don’t produce that much waste. Almost 50% of SMEs do not keep records of how much waste they produce, which makes it hard to find efficiencies and track increases in services, and costs.

We’ve got a recycling bin. We’re doing enough. In a survey conducted by the EPA, over 70% of SMEs think they’re doing enough with their waste management when in fact, commercial recycling rates indicate that only 60% of commercial waste is being recycled.

We don’t have time for that. There’s a perception that sorting into different bins is time consuming and impractical. In reality, a well set-up bin system can save time by putting items directly into the same bin, and can result in fewer collections, as the general waste bin doesn’t get full as quickly. Cleanaway also offers a dedicated packaging waste service for businesses to put all their cardboard and plastic packaging into one bin.

Skipbin with CardboardsThat’s not a priority for our company. Planet Ark reports that 80% of Australian employees want to contribute to a better planet and would like to see more recycling in the workplace.

Globally, millennials have surpassed Generation X as the largest share of the workforce, with 90% saying it is important they work for a sustainable company. Nearly 75% would take a pay cut to work for a socially responsible company.

For today’s workforce, a tangible commitment to sustainability is no longer a ‘nice-to-have’ but is a requirement for businesses, as it directly impacts their ability to attract, retain and inspire talent.

Making the case for business waste

Reduced environmental impact. A good waste management plan can result in more efficient and economical operations, as Argo Cafe discovered. By diverting organic food waste from the general waste stream, Argo improved their landfill diversion rate to 80% in just two short months.

Food wasteHighpoint Shopping Centre wanted to achieve 38% waste diversion from landfill by 2016, but their rates were stagnant at 25% – 26%. Within 12 months of reviewing their waste practices, Highpoint are now working towards a target of 50% diversion from landfill.

Long-term cost savings. Businesses have reported increased savings by employing new waste management technologies, source-sorting waste materials into common streams, and by reviewing current collection systems with their waste management provider.

Darling Quarter, a modern community precinct and home to Sydney’s largest playground, undertook a major waste audit as part of a waste management contract with Cleanaway. By reconfiguring their dock space to fit two small compactors in the place of several bins, they reduced waste and recycling service costs by $36,000 annually (among other notable achievements).

Better reputation with customers. Putting sustainability on the business agenda not only makes for happier, healthier staff, but earns goodwill from customers and clients. An international study by Unilever shows that a third (33%) of customers are choosing to buy from brands they believe are doing environmental or social good.

Nielsen’s global survey revealed that brands with a demonstrated commitment to sustainability outperform those that don’t, with up to 66% of customers willing to pay more for sustainable goods.

Getting started with your waste management plan

A professional waste audit will help you identify and quantify key sources of waste generation.

Electronic waste. E-waste is one of the fastest growing contributors to our national waste stream. Many Australians don’t recycle old devices because they don’t know where to take them, fear losing valuable data, and think it will cost too much. (Source: Australia must improve e-waste recycling)

The National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme provides industry-funded e-waste recycling services for smaller businesses while larger companies can arrange for a tailored solution with their waste management provider. This can be as simple as setting aside a separate bin for e-waste recycling or using a secure product destruction service for obsolete devices.

Paper, cardboard and packaging waste. If your business generates packaging waste such as cardboard and paper, look for a dedicated packaging waste service. This lets you put your paper, cardboard, polystyrene and shrink wrap into a single bin instead of separating them.

Food waste. If your business generates food waste, look for a food waste and organic recycling collection service. Your organic waste will be turned into high-quality mulch and compost for use in agricultural land, and removing that wet, heavy material from the bin will also reduce your general waste costs.

Workshop solutions. Automotive workshops generate used lubricating oil, sump oil and oily rags that can all be recycled. Cleanaway’s re-refined oil offsets Australia’s requirements by almost 900,000 barrels annually.

If you’re looking to improve your business’ waste processes, Cleanaway offers a “no obligation” waste assessment to help you in your journey towards making a sustainable future possible.