Enhancing Waste Management Efficiency: Educating and Improving

14 Feb 2020 by Tom Swinbourne

Discussing the change in customer demands in waste management highlighted just how environmentally ‘savvy’ consumers are becoming. With access to wide-scale audiences now at consumers’ fingertips, both local and global brands are at an increased risk of being shamed for their environmental performance online.

The first of our series of blog posts highlighted just how crucial it is for brands to enhance waste management efficiency to meet changing consumer demands. This was also proven true in a recent survey by Business News Daily, highlighting 80% of consumers asked felt it was important for companies to now operate with an eco-friendly conscience. As we arrive at the second topic in this series of Reconomy blog posts, we follow on from the change in consumer demands to discuss how organisations can do more to educate and improve waste management efficiency. The topic was discussed in detail in the TwinFM second roundtable, which can be found here.

The importance of segregation

In the second TwinFM and Reconomy roundtable discussion, Reconomy’s Head of Sustainability, Nathan Gray, highlighted the importance of segregation. Segregation is deemed as the most important factor to aid the quality of any recycling process and should be prioritised by organisations of all sizes.

For any business looking to aid the waste segregation process, it was discussed how looking through the lens of what waste is arriving from their supply chain is an important step. This involves auditing a company’s current process to determine the segregation requirements that will enhance its waste management efficiency.

How can companies aid segregation?

As we highlighted in the first blog, it doesn’t matter if your customer is a business or a consumer, there is still a strong desire to increase sustainable business practices to meet changing customer needs. No matter the size of the business or the industry it operates in, the segregation process for waste needs to be consistent across the board.

Changing the perception of consumers was a heavily discussed topic in the roundtable. There is an argument to say that aiding both the consumers and employees of the company’s segregation will facilitate recycling, no matter what the industry. This was recently proven true by a local takeaway in Weston-Super-Mare, who swapped throw away single-use plastic containers for metal containers called ‘tiffins’. A great example of how changing a consumer’s perception of a typical ‘on-the-go’ meal can reduce single-use plastics used for food storage, simply by considering an education route.

The importance of education

From the local takeaway to a multi-million pound organisation, educating your consumers on the segregation process is equally as important. As our very own Nathan Gray touched on during the roundtable, simplifying the message at the frontend could be the missing link to aid an organisation’s waste efficiency.

A recent announcement by the On-Pack Recycling Label organisation (OPRL) is a step in the right direction, where simplified labels are being introduced to products. The idea of the labels is to simplify the message at the front end, advising consumers what waste streams in the purchased product can and cannot be recycled. The first example introduced was a yogurt pot, where the labels had two different instructions; one advising that the pot can be recycled and one advising that the film covering the pot cannot.

The use of bins can also aid the education process for consumers, especially when signposted to assist with segregation. An example used in the roundtable discussion was a typical garage a consumer will use to fill up vehicles. At a typical garage or motorway service station, it is very rare to find more than one bin for waste, which can prompt consumers to load multiple waste streams of ‘on-the-go’ waste into a single bin. This triggers the question; do businesses need to do more to aid the segregation of their waste, or is educating their consumers more important?

Enhancing efficiency

So, what can businesses do to enhance waste management efficiency? We’ve learnt that educating consumers and prioritising segregation are critical to improving recycling rates, now the challenge is implementing those practices across different industries. In the webinar, Nathan proposed the idea of removing all general waste bins in an office environment, subsequently forcing the act of segregation. Although Nathan used an office environment in the proposed example, there is an argument to say it could be implemented across different industries, especially the used example of an on-the-go garage single waste bin.

With the argument to say, ‘consumers create general waste’, the proposed approach would require businesses to ‘look back up the funnel’ and identify what waste streams are being generated. Once the waste streams have been identified, there would be an on-site bin to accommodate each stream. Although the approach can be transferable across all industries, the importance of education shouldn’t be underestimated. Segregation and education need to work together cohesively in order to enhance efficiency, especially if a business is handling multiple waste streams. Can we truly segregate waste without an education process in place?

To listen to the second Reconomy roundtable session and to learn more about the practices that can enhance waste management efficiency, please visit:

https://www.twinfm.com/article/dont-waste-it-roundtable-series-changing-...