In recent months, largely thanks to our countrywide adopted grandad, David Attenborough, plastic waste has become an issue that a lot of people have become a lot more concerned about. For the past 100 years we have been dumping it in our rivers, oceans, and landfills, where it will not be broken down for thousands of years.
Of course the benefits of plastic—cheapness, strength, shininess and versatility—mean it's not that surprising that we use so much. But the effects on wildlife, the environment and David Attenborough's face are now too great to just brush under the carpet (or into the sea).
Apart from saving the environment, recycling in your office (and home) can also save you money, time and make you more attractive to potential partners .
Recycling depends on participation. Individually you may feel like you are not making much of a difference, but collectively an environmentally conscious office can save a huge amount of plastic, cardboard, paper and food waste.
If your office doesn’t have a recycling program in place, prod the nearest colleague who can set that kind of thing up in the shoulder (if its you, prodding unnecessary) and ask why, then you can get to work. Here are some of the basic steps you can take:
- Limit the plastic you use in the first place. Do you really need a new plastic crab shaped pencil sharpener for your desk? (Actually, that’s a bad example because that’s clearly a yes) Do you need to use plastic folders, or get a big load of bottled water in for a meeting when some glass jugs and tap water would do the trick? Re-usable water bottles are also a good investment, but be aware you will need a dishwasher that is hot enough to sterilise the bottles. As a lot of bars and restaurants are doing now, simply cutting out things such as plastic straws and cups, and even those little coffee stirrers, will greatly help the amount of waste we all produce. When it comes to sipping your friday afternoon gin and tonic, use paper straws, or even invest in a reusable metal straw.
- Coffee, the lifeblood of the UK industry is also unfortunately very wasteful. Although the major coffee companies make a show of trying to be environmentally friendly, they aren’t trying very hard. Most of the cups that you get your morning coffee in are coated with plastic, therefore unable to be recycled. This is a lot of landfill waste. As with the straw, carrying your own reusable cup with you can add up to saving a staggering amount of landfill waste every week. Coffee pods used in the office are now recyclable and can usually be sent back to (or picked up by) the companies that make them.
- A lot of plastic waste in offices comes from lunches. Packaging for sandwiches, ready meals, yogurts, and all the pieces of unnecessary packaging supermarkets insist on wrapping a cucumber in. All of this is probably the most annoying part of recycling as it usually involves reading the actual box/packet as to whether you can recycle that type of plastic. As a rule, the thicker ready meal trays and yogurt pots are recyclable while cellophane lids and thin plastic are not. But if you’re unsure, chuck it in recycling anyway. Cling film is also a big waste and not recyclable, so it’s usually better just to reuse last nights chinese takeaway box with a plastic lid.
- Make sure you have enough bins. Smaller ones for landfill and food waste and bigger ones for plastic, cardboard and metal. At the very least, you should have a recycling and a landfill bin in each room of your office. Make sure the bins are clearly labelled and, if possible, print off some pictures of what can go in each of them to make it as easy as possible for your workmates.
- Everyday items such as fluorescent bulbs, batteries etc can be potentially toxic to the environment if not handled properly. But, if your office does not already have a way to recycle them, there are convenient recycling solutions like recycle-by-mail kits that help you deal with potentially hazardous waste responsibly.