Environmental Information Exchange

Reducing waste

The Waste Hierarchy

For any business or organisation seeking to address the issue of waste, the waste hierarchy is a useful starting point.

The 'reverse pyramid' sets out all the options for waste, going (from top to bottom) from best solution to worst solution.

When addressing waste it is useful to keep the waste hierarchy in mind - even though taking steps to recycle instead of landfill a waste material is a positive step and will likely save money, considering a way to reduce that waste in the first place will save even more.

Throughout the waste pages of the EiE site you will find that for every material reduce, reuse and recycle options are given as alternatives to disposing of waste.

the waste hierarchy

Reduce

Wherever possible look at ways you can reduce your waste. This may be through manufacturing processes, or simply by changing wasteful behaviour such as printing on both sides of paper, or by retraining staff to reuse suitable items.

EiE can help you reduce waste. Our onsite audits identify waste materials and supply practical solutions and alternatives to waste creation. Click here for details

Reuse (and Remanufacture)

Although some materials may no longer be of use to you, it is likely that someone else will be able to use them. Local groups, other businesses etc may be able to use materials, and in some cases may even pay for them. Reuse is preferable to recycling as it requires little or no energy to be expended in reprocessing materials.

There are links to material exchange sites and re-use services on our re-use page where you can list (and find) unwanted and surplus materials which may be of value to someone else - these can also be particularly useful when discarding more unusual and one-off items.

Remanufacturing (also sometimes referred to as refurbishment or reconditioning) is similar to reuse, but involves a more thorough treatment of the item before it is put back into use. The aim of remanufacturing is to restore an item to an 'as new condition', whilst retaining the original form of the item.

For more information visit The Centre for Remanufacturing and Reuse which describes remanufacturing as "A series of manufacturing steps acting on an end-of-life part or product in order to return it to like-new or better performance, with warranty to match." Remanufacturing is also intended to guarantee the performance of the object, so although the process can be more expensive than reuse, as it involves time and effort, the quality of the item should be guaranteed.

Recycle

Where items and materials cannot be reused in their existing form, recycling allows the materials to be reclaimed and converted into new items or raw material. Recycling saves huge amounts of energy when compared to the complicated processes of extracting or manufacturing new materials. Recyclable materials have a value to waste management companies so the costs associated with recycling are lower than disposal of waste.

EiE can help you recycle waste. Our waste reports and onsite audits identify potentially valuable materials in your waste, and recommend suitable contracts with local suppliers to save you money, and increase the amount you recycle. Click here for details

Energy from waste

Although some materials are simply not reusable or recyclable, many still have a great deal of stored energy. As an alternative to landfilling waste, some areas are using waste to energy plants (incinerators) to recover this energy and address some of the limitations of energy supply.

For most businesses energy from waste is not a direct option. However it is possible to select waste contractors who specialise in energy from waste instead of landfill.

However, some businesses - particularly those producing large amounts of wood waste - may find that using wood powered boilers and heating systems, may provide a useful, money saving alternative to waste disposal - solving the problem of waste and energy supply in one.

Disposal

Disposal should be a last resort for dealing with waste from an organisation. Almost all materials can be recovered in some way.

Disposal is also more expensive, and the costs will continue to rise due to landfill tax and the limited areas left for landfill. By limiting as far as possible the waste your organisation sends to landfill, you can save significant amounts of money, and make a measurable impact on protecting the environment and conserving resources.