Home / Environment / Separation Issues

Separation Issues

A cohesive waste strategy not only saves money, it can help build a reputation for good environmental management, says Bradley Smith, Grundon Waste Management

Effective, responsible management of an organisation’s waste is not only good for the environment, enhancing the business’ reputation, it can save money, build team spirit, and avoid the risks of non-compliance.

The key to success is having a clear strategy in place. Ensuring employees understand the objectives and are fully engaged is central to the process. On a practical level it should be made as easy as possible for people to recycle everything from yoghurt pots to printer inks, paper and card.

A good starting point is to ask a reputable waste management company to undertake a waste audit, helping to identify the different types and quantities of waste being produced and thrown away. Once this is established, FMs can work with a waste expert to devise simple solutions to increasing recycling and reprocessing with the minimum of effort.

It helps to set practical goals against which to judge progress. Targets could include diverting more waste away from landfill, for example by increasing the amount sent to Energy from Waste (EfW) facilities, where it is used to generate electricity. Increasing reprocessing or recycling rates will help to achieve financial savings, as will cutting the number of waste vehicle collections and reducing the amount of waste in the first place.

Separating out different types of waste will boost reprocessing and recycling figures and need not be complicated. Segregating food waste from general waste in commercial kitchens is one example of how to make a difference. Because food is heavy, it adds considerably to the weight and therefore the cost of disposing of general waste. Segregating it into specially designed food waste bins helps achieve savings.

In addition, because the food waste bins can easily be weighed, it enables organisations to gather vital data which will help to monitor wastage and address such issues as portion size, unpopular dishes and over-ordering. By sending food waste to an anaerobic digestion (AD) facility, it will be used to create bio-fertiliser and biofuels, improving the organisation’s environmental credentials.

Segregating waste is also important to ensure compliance with all relevant legislation – a particularly challenging part of the facilities manager’s role. Environment Agency legislation means that in a commercial environment, everyday items such as cleaning chemicals, batteries, aerosols, paints, adhesives and even toner cartridges fall into the category of hazardous waste.

Simply disposing of such items in general waste risks a substantial fine and can impact on a business’ reputation. It is the responsibility of whoever manages an organisation’s waste – whether in-house or outsourced – to ensure compliance with the latest rules and regulations by ensuring different waste materials are segregated and disposed of in the correct fashion.

Implementing a waste strategy works best when everyone has a clear idea of what they need to do. Support and buy-in at every level is important and, if your business succeeds in saving money and improving its environmental credentials, staff should share in the rewards.

There are many ways to encourage staff to deal with waste responsibly. Holding a waste awareness day, for example, is a great way for employees to share information, and provides an opportunity for a waste expert to come along to answer questions and suggest ideas.

Developing a ‘green team’ and identifying waste champions, ideally from different areas of the business, is a good way to focus attention on waste management. It’s important that staff understand how their own efforts can make a difference. Ask for ideas about what could be done better.

Talk about improvements and benefits – it helps employees to know their recycling efforts are being taken seriously. Highlight statistics on noticeboards, the intranet and in staff newsletters. By providing incentives, rewarding good results and entering environmental awards, staff will know you are proud of what they are achieving.

Make sure that recycling containers are visible and accessible, and that it’s clear which items go in which bins. Posters, signage and leaflets with hints, tips and advice can all be helpful.

Finally, consider working with a single reputable supplier who can tailor their service to meet all your organisation’s waste management needs. Choosing a waste management partner who can handle many different types of waste is useful, as this ensures just one point of contact and makes it easier and faster to address issues as
they arise.

It’s important that the waste management partner is seen to be taking steps to minimise wastage, cut carbon emissions and do their bit for the environment. Grundon, for example, has recently extended its three-year Carbon Neutral fleet certification programme, committing the company to reducing all greenhouse gas emissions from its vehicles in 2017 to net zero. This means all journeys in company vehicles would be officially carbon neutral, helping to reduce the carbon footprint of customers.


  • Each plastic bottle recycled saves enough energy to power a 60-watt light bulb for three hours.
  • Recycling one aluminium can saves enough energy to power a TV for three hours.
  • In terms of saving greenhouse gas emissions, recovering a tonne of food waste through anaerobic digestion is equivalent to taking almost three cars off the road.
  • 9 out of 10 people would recycle more if it were made easier.

The UK arm of water filter manufacturer Brita has introduced a number of waste management measures, with results that include zero waste to landfill, the identification of 30 different waste streams, and a significant reduction in the number of vehicle collections.

Brita believes its green credentials are a vital factor in attracting partnerships with brand names such as Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Costa Coffee and Argos. “Recycling is really important to us, and from a green partnership and marketing point of view this is an excellent message to share with our customers,” says Bryan Edwards, Professional and Services Warehouse Manager.

A Brita green team, comprising 10 employees from different departments, including finance and marketing, was tasked with overseeing the changes. They effectively became bin monitors for the first few months, making sure that the right waste was going into the right bins. “It was also important to get the message across about trying to reduce the amount of paper we print,” says Edwards.

In the offices, under-desk bins were removed and replaced with bin stations, all clearly labelled. Conscious of the need to avoid having too many different bins in multiple locations, the team used a rule of thumb which said most areas would have two bins to collect the highest likely amount of materials to be recycled from that area. Remaining items would be taken to bin stations elsewhere.

“Some 90 per cent of our commercial customers have recycling bins in-store to enable water filter cartridges to be returned,” says Edwards. “We return these to Brita in Germany for reprocessing, and we reuse or recycle as much as we can, including the plastic jugs themselves.”

Over a 12-month period, eco-savings have amounted to nearly 55,000 kg of CO2, equivalent to saving 1,919 trees, and almost 29 MWh of power was generated. Brita’s manufacturing process creates around 2,000 tonnes of waste a year, but less than 30 tonnes of that is residual waste. This is transported by Grundon Waste Management to Viridor’s energy recovery facility (ERF) plant.

To help tackle the problem of non-conforming waste, an enclosed, lockable compactor has now been installed, removing any opportunity for disposing of unwanted waste and ensuring that when residual waste goes to the ERF plant, it is high quality material and meets all necessary regulations.


About Sarah OBeirne


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *