Running an Eco-friendly Business – The Importance of Minimising Waste

Businesses today are aware of the need to develop their eco-friendly policies. The reduction waste they produce is potentially a key part of any Environmental Plan and can make a significant impact on a company’s Environmental Audit.

Although the Federation of Small Business states that 95% of small businesses would cut their waste if they had access to the necessary services, not all companies have a strategy in place which would help the UK move towards its waste reduction targets for the year 2020.

In the UK we produce over 200 million tonnes and three-quarters of this waste is from industry and construction. Each person produces approximately 437 kilos per year, of which only 43.9% is recycled, the rest being disposed of in landfill or incinerated.


Electrical waste, including computer hardware and mobile phones, is known as e-waste.

The United Nations reports that only 16% of e-waste is recycled, globally. Mobile phones, recently in the news for blowing up on their way to landfill, can be efficiently recycled. Recycling one million cell phones would recover 20,000 pounds of copper, 550 pounds of silver, 50 pounds of gold and 20 pounds of palladium. Recycling a million laptops would provide 2,657 homes with energy for a year.

Tips on reducing waste in your business

  • Prevention – go paper-free in the office. If your business purchases food for its staff or customers, buying in bulk and buying products with minimal or no packaging will significantly lessen your annual waste.
  • Education – launch an environmental education campaign with your staff and promote this program to your clients. Engaging the whole company in the project of reducing waste will produce ideas singular to your enterprise and you can promote to your clients and customers the company’s environmental awareness and its contribution to the UK Waste Reduction targets of 2020.
  • Reuse – introduce real cups instead of plastic coffee cups and insist that new products will only be bought after the disposal of the old has been environmentally procured. For example, old computers can be donated to local charities or there are national organisations which will collect them for parts.
  • Build new partnerships with other local companies to reuse waste, several ideas can be found at the National Industrial Symbiosis Programme.
  • Recycling – use your Local Authority services, and if inadequate form a network with other local businesses to campaign for better services or collectively hire an independent contractor.
  • Specialist recycling services – there are specialists who will pick up different types of e-waste and pay you for them. These are not necessarily companies who are dedicated waste disposal services, but companies who provide this as part of their services e.g. new computers for old ones.

Successful case studies

An organic pub in North London runs its business with a clear ecological imperative. They sourced second-hand furniture and signed up with an electricity provider that generates energy from wind and solar. They recycle their paper, glass, cardboard, corks, plastics, food water and vegetable oil. They source seasonal food from local suppliers for their catering and buy food materials with minimal or little packaging. They only purchase fish from companies that follow Marine Conservation Society’s guidelines. They saved water by using water saving devices in toilets, and unsurprisingly they have gained business and a great reputation for their efforts.

This example and many other case studies show the possibilities available to businesses who wish to be more environmentally aware and change the way they wish to work in order to reach the UK’s 2020 Environmental Goals.

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