Our war on workplace waste

With single-use plastic bag bans coming into effect in Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia last month, there has been much discussion in the media about the need to reduce plastic in our homes.

All states and territories, excluding New South Wales, have now banned single-use plastic bags. This is a positive step towards reducing the estimated 5 billion plastic bags used annually!

 

But what about reducing plastic and other waste in the workplace?
We thought we’d share some tips we’ve implemented recently at Above Benchmark Headquarters.

 

Using less paper. As a team, we are committed to using less paper. We edit documents online rather than printing them out to edit them.

Using both sides of the paper. We either print both sides of the paper or we use the second side of the discarded paper to write notes. Once both sides of the paper have been used and we have no further use for it, we recycle it.

Reusable cups for our daily coffee. Our team members have invested in KeepCups for their takeaway coffees. Many cafes now offer a discount if you bring your own cup too, which is an added incentive.

Recycled toilet paper that’s good for the world. We now have Who Gives a Crap toilet paper in the office bathroom. The toilet paper is made from recycled paper and 50% of the profits go towards building toilets in developing countries!

Separate bins for our trash. Our office kitchen has a number of bins to separate recycling, soft plastics and general rubbish for landfill. By separating our trash, we’ve noticed a huge reduction in the amount of rubbish that goes into landfill. All we need now is a compost bin!

Reduced plastic. Individual team members have implemented various strategies to reduce plastic. From wrapping their lunch in beeswax wraps or storing food in recycled glass jars to using cloth bags for shopping.

Ink and toner cartridge recycling. Officeworks stores have Planet Ark recycling stations to collect your empty ink and toner cartridges, diverting waste from landfill and reducing greenhouse gases. It’s free. Just take your cartridges to your local store and dispose of them in the Planet Ark boxes.

Going loose. Did you know that tea bags contain plastic? Loose leaf tea is easier than you think. All you need are a few tea ball strainers, or a coffee or tea plunger and you’re all set. The other great thing about loose leaf tea is that you can combine a few different types of leaves to create your own signature blend!

Laptop bags made from recycled plastic bottles. We recently discovered that these exist! We were amazed. Officeworks has a great range of laptop bags and totes. They are durable, stylish and almost 100% recycled materials.

 

 

What else can you do as a business?

 

Recycle your old IT equipment. Items such as laptops, desktops, computer accessories, monitors, printers, scanners and hardware computers and computer accessories can be recycled through the Officeworks ‘Bring IT Back’ program. Customers can take up to five items into participating stores to be recycled. Visit the website for a list of participating stores.

Recycle your old mobile phones, batteries and accessories. The Mobile Muster program has numerous drop off points including local Telstra, Optus, Vodafone, Samsung stores, Officeworks, Salvos, local Council recycling centres. Alternatively, grab a Mobile Muster satchel from your local Australia Post outlet.

Recycle your pens, desk items and coffee pods. TerraCycle offers recycling solutions for hard-to-recycle products. While many items can be recycled at local Council recycling stations, some items can’t be recycled in your kerbside bin. You can purchase TerraCycle boxes from Officeworks and once they are full, you simply drop the box off at an Australia Post outlet. They’ll send it off to TerraCycle for recycling. The recycled material is then used to make outdoor furniture.

Opt for compostable mail satchels. New South Wales company, Compost-a-pak has a wide range of compostable bags including mail satchels. if your business posts items to customers. The bags are made from vegetable matter and are fully compostable.

Look for plastic-free packaging alternatives.  It’s super annoying receiving parcels full of bubble wrap or foam noodles. What do you do with all that filling? There are environmentally-friendly options available. Cheap alternatives include shredded office paper or newspaper. Other options include the paper cushion tubes and sheets from Storopack. It’s reusable and recyclable.

Introduce a ‘plastic-free day’ once a week. Choose a day and encourage your team members to bring their lunch from home or a share plate, use reusable cutlery and crockery, and wash up afterwards as a team.

Discourage single-use plastic bottles. Install a water fountain in the office and encourage staff to use refillable glass bottles.

Create awareness. Encourage your staff to practice waste-reduction at work and home by providing simple tips in your team newsletters or on noticeboards; create team challenges; encourage and reward team members to initiate environmentally friendly practices for your business.

 

These suggestions are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to reducing plastic and other waste in the workplace. So how do you avoid becoming overwhelmed with all the options?

 

  • Choose one or two easy strategies to start with. Repeat them daily until you are confident you can introduce another strategy.
  • It takes 28 days to form a habit, so give yourself time to adopt your new practice and don’t be disheartened if you slip up from time to time.
  • Aim for improvement, not perfection. If you’re someone who buys takeaway coffee in disposable cups 5 days a week but after introducing a reusable cup, you find you still buy disposable cups every now and then, you are still making a huge difference to the environment.  

 

If you’ve implemented waste-reduction strategies in your workplace, we’d love to hear about them. Join in the conversation over on our Facebook page

 

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