Waste management providers must educate companies on what to as well as how to recycle correctly in the workplace

The end of COP26 marks the beginning of a new way of working for businesses, as the biggest climate change event since COP21 six years ago has laid bare the grim reality of our planet’s future. So what should businesses be doing in response as part of their net zero strategy? Don Robins, Director of waste management and recycling specialist Printwaste, explains.

At a basic level, what organisations need to consider is how they impact the environment, such as consumption of resources consumed and size of carbon footprint, and what role the business can play in improving the planet. It’s also important to look at what information is shared with stakeholders, so not only taking action is crucial for the climate but as customer expectation is now higher and consumer behaviour is likely to be affected by the outcomes of COP26, green credentials are also essential for good business.

Under recently proposed Treasury rules, most UK firms and financial institutions will be forced to show how they intend to hit climate change targets. By 2023, they will have to set out detailed public plans for how they will move to a low-carbon future – in line with the UK’s 2050 net-zero target. These changes would include better and more consistent climate data; mandatory sustainability disclosures; proper climate risk surveillance; and official global reporting standards. While this will affect bigger firms, small businesses also have a responsibility in addressing these criteria, but where do organisations start in establishing a more sustainable approach if they haven’t already? An audit serves as a good starting point in helping businesses determine a bespoke solution, one that turns more of their waste into resource, protect data and, ultimately, help conserve the planet.

Here are a few specific areas an audit can cover to help better understand how to safely dispose of waste and confidential data:

Waste segregation

Segregating waste effectively needn’t be complicated; it is however crucial, particularly when dealing with hazardous materials, as mixing such waste is prohibited (the government has set out guidelines which are available online). It is also important for waste management providers to create awareness with companies on what to as well as how to recycle correctly in the workplace, to improve the sustainability of the planet for the next generation. Education is key, as knowing what to recycle correctly will also encourage more people to separate materials for recycling.

An audit carried out by a waste management and recycling specialist will install the correct equipment in place that will help reduce the risk of contamination, improve recycling rates and reduce the volume of potentially recyclable resource going into general waste.

Workplace

Identification of the most suitable locations for storage containers (bins) is key, and to make sure these are both accessible and practical for employees. This is a simple yet critical step to getting everyone involved in a company’s waste management programme and will encourage a collective shift in mindset towards recycling and sustainability.

Confidential Data

A recycling and confidential shredding specialist will be able to equip firms with the most secure storage and shredding options for their business data needs, to ensure they are fully protected and 100% compliant with all data protection regulations such as The Data Protection Act 2018 and GDPR. It will also help them to achieve the most sustainable solution for the material following destruction.

An audit carried out by a professional waste management and recycling specialist should also use the Government’s ‘Waste Hierarchy’ as a reference for providing businesses with the most environmentally friendly waste solutions. This is a triangular tool used to ensure an organisation’s waste is being transported to the right place, where its potential is unearthed as a resource and landfill is avoided.

The bigger picture

We are still a long way off meeting net zero objectives, as COP26 has illustrated, and taking these first steps to dispose of waste in a better way, although crucial, is just the tip of the iceberg and should form the foundation of any organisation’s net zero strategy. However, it’s the first step of a journey that all businesses need to commit to if we stand any chance of adequately addressing climate change.