The Business Case for Implementing Recycling Initiatives

Recycling -the third R in the mantra of ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ – is widely accepted by consumers. Is it time for businesses to consider recycling, and can they recycle cost-effectively, to benefit their business as well as the environment?

The challenge for operators such as shopping centres, residential buildings, government departments, universities and schools and other businesses is to convert this acceptance of domestic recycling into everyday behaviour at the workplace. “Ausralians are very good at recycling in the home, why not in the office or commercial operation?” asks RUD’s Keith Lawrence. RUD is a leading provider of colour-coded indoor recycling bins for businesses.

Three pertinent questions should be answered before a recycling plan is considered:

  1. Why recycle?
  2. How can you save money through recycling?
  3. How can you recycle cost-effectively and streamline the recycling process?

Other than environmental responsibility, there are two important reasons why recycling should be considered – cost savings and business image.

A considerable benefit of recycling, especially for large commercial and residential entities, is achieving ‘green branding’. “Corporations in their quest to differentiate themselves in the market, attract investors, and attract and retain human talent, are increasingly looking for ways to boost their sustainability, and ensuring they are leasing green buildings is an important component of this,” says Melanie Barstow, of Source Separation Systems. “Facilities Managers who offer greener properties can attract better clients and gain a premium return.” For businesses based in major cities’ CBDs, this is an important consideration in their contest with commercial properties in other business precincts.

Narveen Radhappan, Operations Manager at Knox Shopping Centre, Melbourne, agrees. He is overseeing implementation of of the 142,000 m2 shopping centre’s environmental plan, of which recycling is one element. The third largest shopping centre in Australia, Knox has 350 retailers, including all the majors, supermarkets and smaller outlets, and a large food court catering to 900 people, and its recycling program is the largest of its kind in Australia. Recycling is already part of people’s consciousness and they are expecting to see businesses implementing it, he says, and might well be regulated for in future. “We’re moving with the times. Businesses should adopt recycling now; it’s what our customers want.”

Cost saving through recycling

Radhappan, Barstow and Lawrence all stress cost-saving as an important reason for recycling. The cost of waste disposal will rise substantially over the next few years in most states, so reducing the volume of waste to landfill creates savings. “It is cheaper for waste collection companies to collect recyclable materials than to collect landfill, as the landfill will cost a disposal fee whereas recyclable materials will cost only a transport fee for the waste collection company,” Radhappan points out.

A four-week recycling trial by the NSW Department of Finance in Sydney’s McKell Building, using bins supplied by RUD, resulted in the Department recovering eight times the pre-trial level of recyclables, and cutting its landfill by fifty per cent. Knox Shopping Centre currently generates 2,301,000 kilos of general waste and 1,107,000 kilos of recycling materials per year. Its recycling system, using 75 permanent waste and recycling bin stations, is tipped to increase recycling rate to 50% by early 2013, removing 100 tonnes of beverage containers from landfill annually.

As well, if there is a sufficient flow of recyclable material, the business may gain through sale to the recycling company. “Recycling companies often pay for clean recycling, which offsets some of the cost of collection,” says Barstowe. This is particularly true if buildings can achieve ‘clean’ waste with single streams free of contamination.

“Recycling also contributes to the bottom line through less tangible channels, such as cleaner waste handling in the building, improved image and attractiveness to customers and tenants,” Radhappan says.

Implementing cost-effective recycling

A recycling and waste management plan should be developed with consultants such as Source Separation Systems, RUD, SITA and others. The plan must be specific to your operation and should identify potential improvements in your existing system

Once the plan has been developed, procure the right bins and compactors and then work with your cleaning staff to implement a timetable for emptying the bins. Educate cleaning staff in the new system will operate and their roles in it. Hold regular meeting with cleaning and waste contractors about any issues, the volume of recycling and contamination levels. Radhappan stresses that timing of bin emptying is crucial to the cost-efficiency of any recycling system. “Ensure compactors or bins are picked up only when they are almost full, limiting the number of trips to the tip, saving fuel, labour and tip fees.”

It’s important to take staff and clients along with you as you implement the system. “Effective recycling is as much about behaviour change as the right bins, and can be the biggest challenge,” Lawrence says. Initial education and regular feedback are vital, so users “buy into” the system and recycling becomes everyday behaviour.

Making recycling easy

– Ensure users can easily choose the appropriate bins to reduce waste contamination. Signs and colour-coding should be clear enough for a five year old child to understand.

– Install dual waste bins in public spaces. Their restricted openings allow drink bottles to be recycled

– Indoor bins should meet Australian Standards colours, be clearly labelled, and have openings which encourage recycling

– Ensure sufficient bins of the right size and colour coding in indoor areas and waste bays

– Educate staff, clients and customers about the system and give regular feedback

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