Eco News from 4imprint
Many of us are well aware of the need to recycle, but have we become so used to hearing the case for recycling that we’re getting desensitised to it? And could small businesses be in a position to lead from the front on this issue and generate renewed interest in it among their employees? We ask these questions in light of a new report from the BBC, which revealed that despite efforts to encourage recycling, household waste has gone up in almost 2/3rds of council areas. Swindon saw a bigger increase than anywhere else in England, with annual average household waste jumping from 463kg in 2012-24 to 602kg this year. Many household habits easily transfer themselves to the workplace, but the reverse is also true, so we think it’s right to ask if businesses might be able to help stem this tide.

Commenting on the BBC’s findings, waste reduction charity WRAP acknowledged that recycling has become a “social norm” but warned that rates are starting to plateau. This was attributed to numerous factors, such as confusion over how certain materials should be disposed of and a lack of belief in any environmental benefit. Margaret Bates, a Professor of Sustainable Waste at the University of Northampton, also suggested that waste is rising because people are spending more again in the wake of the financial crisis. Of course, people make their own rules in their own homes, but they are subject to someone else’s rules when they are at work. Even the smallest businesses can encourage more eco-friendly behaviour among their staff and get them into habits that they will apply at home too.

Offer incentives for green behaviour
Setting targets for recycling can be hugely motivational, particularly if there is some reward at the end of it – a voucher perhaps or some health & wellness themed products, or maybe even a symbolic gesture like a pin badge. Even the smallest incentives and promises of reward can encourage positive behaviour and help people see recycling as an opportunity rather than a burden.

Promote the advantages
Cutting waste can save considerable amounts of money, so why not educate your workforce and let them know exactly what the financial benefits are? How much could you save if you can spend less on disposing of waste and paying landfill taxes? Enough for a staff bonus perhaps, or a summer social event? By pushing the case in these terms, employees might feel a vested interest in following new recycling policies. You could even run awareness sessions and give out quirky message bugs printed with an educational message as well as regular email reminders to your team.

Use digital technology to cut waste
Paper accounts for a huge proportion of the waste generated by SMEs, so use technology where it is appropriate and safe to do so. For instance, if you need to print a document change your settings to print to both sides, or even better, avoid paper altogether by backing up documents on USB Flashdrives or switch to cloud-based storage such as Google Drive. Complement this by ensuring the office supplies you do have are as eco-friendly as possible, such as biodegradable pens or recycled paper notepads.

If employees are made conscious of key environmental issues at work day after day, it’s inevitable that they’ll start realising what savings can be made when they get home. But it needs to be done in a way that gives them a stake in the outcome. Hopefully, engaging people with the issue will lead to spiralling waste levels across the country tumbling down and an end to the apathy that’s hit the British public for far too long.


Sources / Further Reading
England’s waste rise blamed on ‘recycling apathy’ BBC News
Advice and ideas for successful recycling for small businesses Business Waste
Five Ways to Increase Recycling from Business Waste Management World
Top 7 office recycling tips that will obliterate your waste Sustainable Business Toolkit