The waste that a business produces, no matter the size of that business, adds to overhead costs. Various types of waste can also damage the environment. Although a single small business doesn’t produce as much waste as a dozen brick-and-mortar stores under a large corporation, for example, it can still produce too much costly waste. Additionally, if the public discovers that a small business owner hasn’t done everything possible to reduce their waste production, the subsequent backlash could cause the business to fail. You can prevent these problems and reduce your expenses by following four simple steps:
Set Up a Mostly Paperless Office
Many small business owners still use a lot of paper even though modern technologies have made paperless offices a reality. Worse yet, they then send their paper waste to landfills even though paper recycling centers often provide free paper disposal drop-off sites. You can effortlessly reduce paper waste in a variety of ways: For example, you might set up a computer-based virtual note system for employees so that they don’t need to use sticky notes and provide customers with online accounts and electronic invoices rather than generate paper bills. You might invest in an online newspaper subscription for the company rather than a paper one. If your business still heavily relies on paper, consider reusing old single-side printed copier sheets as scratch paper. Most importantly, always recycle every piece of paper that’s no longer usable for any purpose rather than throwing it in the trash.
Invest in Multiple Recycling Programs
Most of the waste that a small business produces can be recycled or upcycled by someone. For example, instead of throwing alkaline batteries in the trash, which results in landfill environmental toxic waste, hire a firm that offers battery recycling services to take your old batteries. A professional recycling company can properly dispose of almost any type of battery, including button, nickel, lithium, lithium ion, silver oxide and even automotive and equipment batteries. Of course, you don’t need to pay for every recycling service. Consider donating items, such as old office furniture or leftover materials from a recent renovation project, to local charities or schools. Some schools collect aluminum cans and plastic bottles to raise funds for class trips. Keep in mind that recycling in these ways can also help you build a positive local reputation.
Rethink a Variety of Disposable Products
A business owner can’t escape all disposable products. Obviously, paper towels and toilet paper are a necessity. That said, disposable plastic wrap and kitchenware, such as plastic utensils and plastic-coated paper plates, in a break room don’t need to be the norm. Businesses also don’t need to use disposable plastic pens. Instead of plastic wrap, invest in reusable dish and bowl covers. If you only have a small staff, arrange for each employee to have their own kitchenware that they’re responsible for cleaning and storing after each use. Instead of using disposable pens, invest in permanent ones that you can refill without using wasteful ink cartridges.
Make Every Employee Accountable
Employee disinterest in following protocols to minimize waste production is one of the main reasons why some small businesses produce far too much waste. Create an accountability program that explains why waste is harmful and your plan to minimize it. In this plan, clearly outline one or more penalties for repeated instances of wastefulness. Distribute the plan in writing to all employees and post it on bulletin boards. Within a day or two, require all employees to acknowledge in writing that they understand the new rules and the consequences of noncompliance. In addition, consider offering awards to employees who do the most to minimize waste or provide feedback with fresh ideas about how you can further minimize it.
These are obviously only a few of the many potential waste-reduction methods. It’s important that you evaluate fully the types and volume of waste your business produces and then create a custom plan to fit your specific situation. You don’t need to do much to minimize waste, reduce costs, protect the environment and improve your standing in the community. You merely need to change how you and your employees address wastefulness.
Emma is a freelance writer based out of Boston, MA. She writes most often on health and education. When not writing, she enjoys reading and watching film noir. Say hi on Twitter @EmmaSturgis2