homenews and insights why recycling matters for small business

Why cutting small business waste matters: tips to help you recycle

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By SSE Energy Solutions
16 March 2023

Business Energy

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As the race to reach net zero heats up across the globe, every business in the world has a part to play when it comes to reaching net zero targets.

When it comes to business sustainability, newer methods such as carbon capture, renewable energy sources and electric vehicles grab the majority of headlines. But less is said for one of the most effective ways of reducing environmental impact. Recycling.

Re-using plastics and other recyclable waste can be successfully applied for small and medium-scale businesses. It’s a practice that’s been around for decades – but how can small businesses introduce new habits into everyday tasks to reduce waste and their carbon footprint?

With Global Recycling Day 2023 upon us, there’s no better time to kickstart your business sustainability efforts. We’ve put together some handy tips to help your small business reduce waste. Plus, we explain why good recycling practices and waste-reduction programmes can actually be good for business and save you money in the long-term.

Get your team – and your community – on board

Sustainability matters to everyone. Around three quarters of employees claim that sustainability is high on the agenda when it comes to the company they represent. Around a quarter of waste produced in the UK is produced by the business sector. 70% of this is recyclable but the majority still heads for landfill sites. This places a responsibility on us all to do what we can to reduce our impact. And the perfect start is a successful recycling programme, embraced by your team.

But no initiative will get off the ground without your people backing it. Here are a few tips to successful recycling adoption:

Support a recycling company culture

1 – Find a recycling contractor

There are a few to choose from. With differing rates and offers it’s wise to shop around to find the best fit for your needs. You can find a full government-approved list here of registered companies who can organise the pick-up and recycling of your compatible waste.

Some specialise in certain types of recycling and others may not offer the flexibility to work around specific collection times and frequencies. Work out the best waste contract you can that fits your company.

2 – Choose your recycling champion!

Choose someone in your team to help maintain enthusiasm and promote recycling. If you’re a sole-trader, or work with a small team, then be the advocate yourself! The recycling champion should ensure that everyone in the business follows their lead and that certain rules are upheld, such as;

  • Rinsing out food packaging and drinks containers
  • Encouraging people to drop single-use plastics
  • Avoiding printing anything that can be read and shared digitally

This is a culture change for your business. If you have any internal message boards or newsletters, use this to your advantage to spread the word before the rollout. You’ll need all hands on deck to ensure everyone pulls together.

Promote team and community spirit

Managers leading by example and offering rewards to people who recycle the most material is a great way to keep people engaged. A company-wide target also keeps recycling output on track.

When your business is successfully re-using and recycling, the positivity that comes from playing your part can have a transformative effect on your business and in your local community.

To ensure that your team are proud of the company they work for, a successful recycling programme can go a long way. It's evidence of your green credentials and helps your people see that the company they represent is intent on making a positive difference. Your business can also enrol in local recycling projects to boost your sustainability efforts. This not only helps shrink carbon emissions, but you'll also gain a positive reputation within the community.

Curbing waste cuts business costs

Once you have the backing of your team and the local community, your business can look toward other benefits. The environmental plusses are obvious, but businesses can reap the financial rewards from a sound recycling programme.

Business waste management is a lucrative industry, worth billions of pounds. But small changes can help your business avoid extra costs that come with extraneous waste collections.

Put simply, by recycling, there will be less landfill-designated waste to be collected, reducing the amount of collections needed and therefore, cost.

Several platic bottls

There are numerous initiatives that reward businesses for recycling too. From printer cartridges to paper waste, you can recoup valuable resources or even donate to charity, further increasing the feelgood factor in your workforce.

Recycling containers and sacks also cost less to produce and purchase than refuse sacks, which are used for incineration at landfill. An efficient recycling programme will cut down on any janitorial and maintenance fees as you’ll collect plastics and paper from your premises and support the collection in designated recycling bins.

Your business can discover exactly how much recycling can have a positive impact by taking part in a waste audit, which examines what your operations and team can do to make a positive difference, as well as potential cost savings.

Save energy, save on emissions and more

Recycling can be one of the biggest cost cutting practices for businesses – and it’s also one of the most sustainable.

Making products from recycled materials uses far less energy than creating them from scratch – to produce aluminium via recycling uses 95% less energy.

Another example is the pulp and paper producing sector, which is the 4th largest industrial energy consumer in the world. But by recycling paper, you can help reduce energy consumption by up to 65%.

And recycling results in less waste heading to landfill. Around 11% of the world’s methane emissions are produced by landfill sites across the globe. Methane is far quicker at increasing global temperatures than carbon dioxide – which places higher priority on recycling.

Sustainability in business quick wins

Here are a few other ways your business can make sure recycling – and starting on a path to business sustainability - becomes part of company culture:

  • Use re-usable envelopes in your stationary
  • Swap out cleaning products for eco-friendly alternatives with recycled packaging
  • Stock the staff fridge with sustainably-sourced drinks and snacks
  • Replace your office lighting with low-energy variants
  • Switch to a renewable energy source to power your premises

Implementing greener methods and practices into your business might be easier than you think. Here are a few tips you can introduce to boost recycling and become a more sustainable business.

If you found this page blog useful, visit our small business sustainability hub for more free tools, tips and expert advice.

Please note, SSE Energy Solutions has written this blog for information purposes only. We recommend speaking to your own business and financial advisors before taking any direct action that will impact your business.