A typical office could produce tons of waste each year. Office waste contributes in many sectors of garbage: paper, plastic, styrofoam and plastic, food waste, et cetera. As office workers, we may seem to only produce two plastic bags, one paper cup for coffee, styrofoam or plastic packaging for lunch and a few papers in a day. Try to multiply the number with, let’s say 100 employees. Imagine if you work in a big company of thousands of employees… Now you get the point.
According to the World Bank, global waste composition is as follows: 44% food and green, 17% paper and cardboard, 12% plastic, 5% glass, 4% metal, 2% rubber and leather, 2% wood and 14% other garbage. Contributing in at least a third to half of the category, a good office waste management can contribute significantly to lessen the total waste. However, 33% of the global waste are being dumped openly and 25.5% are going to unspecified landfill.
Small steps can contribute big time. What if your office doesn’t apply an ideal waste management system? Perhaps no waste management at all? Then go grassroot. As employees, you and your colleague should be conscious about your own waste. Even if your office will dump the garbage at some random landfill anyway, reducing the amount of garbage being dumped is the least that you can do.
Remember how many presentation handouts you print everyday? Then after the presentation, you toss them away. How many contracts to be signed, forms to be filled. You also use paper notes and all as reminders and toss them away after they day’s work is over, right? Also the countless mandatory morning coffees in paper cups...
According to an American recycling company RoadRunner, an average office worker produces about 2 pounds of mixed paper products every day and 10,000 paper sheets per year. An estimated 70% of the total office waste consists of paper products.
Going digital is the most effective solution to reduce paper waste, as it also requires less cost for the company. Yes, screen radiation is not good for your health, but being surrounded by polluted air and have your land corrupted by trash is not a better option. In terms of your morning coffee, you can always use a reusable cup (be it glass cup, ceramic cup or tumbler) or bottle.
2. Plastics, styrofoam and such
Office worker rarely have time to prepare their own meal. So, takeouts are the ultimate solution. However, takeouts use countless of single-use packaging, cutlery and completed with a plastic bag to carry them to the office. A single meal can produce that many plastics and you eat out at least two or three times a day.
If you don’t have time to cook your own meals, then just bring the empty container and cutlery. Use them to carry your takeouts. This way, if you can’t finish the whole meal, you can always save it for later. In other words, you also avoid food waste.
3. Food waste
Companies enjoy throwing parties and what is a party without a buffet. Unfortunately, buffet generates way more food waste than single served meals. So, the next time your office throw a buffet party, ensure the employees to take only what their stomachs can handle. The rest of the food can be repackaged and given to those in need immediately. Even better, suggest your company to have servers, so each employee will be served in proper portions which they can always add up if they feel like having more.
Leveling up, you can suggest a composting bin for food scraps and other organic waste. Although, this will technically require several permissions and more effort. This can be done in parallel with changing the employee’s habits or be an alternative to unwavering office culture.
4. Pantry and common areas
Most offices have pantries or such common area that has water station, dishwasher, single-use plastic cutlery, plastic bags and other supplies. These places has quite a lot of traffic especially during break times. Putting reminders such as to not forget to turn off the faucet can save water supply. Also, instead of plastic bottled water, providing drinking water station and require the employees to bring their own bottle can lessen single-use plastic waste. As for plastic cutlery or bags, try to provide reusable stainless cutlery or biodegradable “plastic” bags. ‘
5. Office supplies and electronic waste
Besides paper, offices also use other stationery supplies and electronic products such as fax and printer. Office supplies could end up being spread on so many desks and left the common area’s supply empty. This causes the company to think that their office supplies are short and that they need more. The employees need to develop a habit of returning the remaining products back to its place, instead of piling them up and leave them unused on their own desks. This can also be applied to electronic equipment, like batteries or printer ink.