Save money by saving the world

Save money by saving the world

Businesses don’t need to think outside the box to cut their office waste in half. It’s not even necessary to throw the box away, as ANLERIE DE WET discovers

Back in the 1970s, we all thought that we’d go paperless. That’s when the term “paperless office” was first mooted. Now, we’re living in the digital age – so that also means paper isn’t really needed, right?

Not a chance. Look around. Calendars are still hanging against the wall, printers are still getting paper-jammed and there are still letters from an angry colleague on the office fridge door asking people not to steal their food.

Something has to change – if not for the environment, then for the protection of the company’s bottom line. Making these changes does not involve rocket science. If companies want to halve the amount of office waste they produce, all they need do is tackle paper and packaging waste.

Paper is downright nasty

Incredibly, paper is responsible for 50 percent of office waste, while packaging contributes 33 percent. According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency in the United States, businesses rip through an estimated 10 000 sheets of paper per year for each employee.

This is seriously bad news for the environment, because ten litres of water is used to make one sheet of A4 paper, meaning that an estimated 100 000 litres of water is wasted per year for each employee. This does not take into account the trees that have been destroyed.

What about recycling?

Lots of people say that creating “mountains” of paper isn’t necessarily bad because, after all, paper can be recycled. Yes and no. According to the Solid Waste Management Coordinating Board’s Office Paper Reduction report, recycling is a good idea, but it is not as cost-effective as reducing usage in the first place.

Reducing paper waste can result in savings in waste collection, maintenance of general office machines and the transportation of documents.

So what should companies do?

Using digital software to store and send documents is definitely a big step forward. However, when using paper it is best to use smaller fonts and margins and print documents on both sides. One should also use scrap paper for notes and reuse envelopes.

Packaging is different. It is made mostly out of paper, plastic and glass, but, for some reason, people don’t tend to recycle packaging. More often than not it is dumped in landfill sites or burnt. This creates more pollution, not counting the pollution caused by the manufacturing and transportation of packaging.

Other than making sure that used packaging at the office is recycled, try to think of ways to reduce the necessity to purchase more packaging. When shopping for the office milk, coffee and biscuits, for instance, reuse the carry bags. Also, buy in bulk; buying three big bags of sugar is better than buying ten small ones (because of the reduction in packaging).

Some packaging can be reused. For example, cardboard boxes can be used as stationary boxes and glass packaging can be used as vases for flowers. Introduce a competition within the company: ask employees to come up with novel ideas to reuse packaging and reward the most innovative idea.

Reducing paper and packaging waste in the office will take time and effort, but the outcome will definitely be worth it.

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SHEQ Management

SHEQ MANAGEMENT is the definitive source for reliable, accurate and pertinent information to guarantee environmental health and safety in the workplace.
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