What's all the fuss about waste?
NSW is producing too much waste. Landfill options are fast becoming more limited and therefore the cost of transporting and disposing of waste is increasing. For both environmental and economic reasons it is essential that all businesses reassess their traditional waste management practices, such as disposing of all solid waste into a bin for collection. This will require a shift in attitudes and practices with an emphasis on preventing and reducing rather than on treating and disposing of wastes. This can be achieved in a number of ways including:
- changing your raw materials
- changing your processes or equipment
- changing your operating procedures
- changing your purchasing and supply procedures.
What can small factories do to minimise waste?
Because waste disposal and treatment can be costly it makes good sense to have a closer look at the materials, processes and equipment you use, to see where you may be able to save materials and dollars.
- Conduct a waste check or audit to identify your major waste types, sources and volumes and how much your wastes are costing you. If you know the wastes you make you can then look at the opportunities for eliminating, minimising, reusing and recycling the different types of materials from the various sources of the waste.
- Inform your suppliers and customers about your commitment to waste reduction and ask for their support. After you have conducted your waste audit, work out a plan to avoid, reduce, reuse or recycle your wastes. Set some targets to work towards in minimising your wastes. Waste disposal should be the last option on your plan!
How can you avoid, reduce and reuse waste?
- If your business is making wastes, it is costing you money and there should be a better way to do what you are doing. Find out if there is a different raw
material, equipment or process that you could use which would produce less waste. The material may have less packaging or may be in a purer form that produces less waste by-product. Keep up to date with new developments, materials and technologies that will help your business become more efficient and reduce your wastes and costs.
- When equipment needs to be repaired or replaced, look for alternatives that will help you reduce the overall wastes you generate.
- Improve your operating procedures. Sometimes rethinking and then changing the way you do things can make a difference:
- Implement better housekeeping procedures by keeping storage and work areas clean, organised and labelled.
- Regularly review your inventory and stock-management procedures. This may help you identify any materials you are over-using; inaccurate measuring that is resulting in overuse and wastage of materials; whether new materials delivered are in acceptable condition; and the batches of materials that need to be used next.
- Use a 'first in, first out' materials policy to avoid wastage of materials that are out of date.
- Minimise the handling of materials to reduce contamination and potential for spills.
- Improve maintenance procedures to cut losses from leaks or inefficient operating equipment.
- Improve scheduling to reduce cleaning requirements.
- Reuse your wastes on-site.
Smarter purchasing, less packaging, less to dispose of
Where possible choose, or specify to your supplier that you want, items with less or no packaging. Although packaging is important for preventing product damage, excessive packaging is not necessary.
- Avoid packaging your products or purchasing materials with excessive packaging such as shrink-wrap, boxes full of polystyrene balls and boxes inside boxes.
- Ask your suppliers to either take back the waste they have passed on to you and/or find a supplier who will provide items with less packaging. Alternatively, ask your suppliers if products can be delivered in returnable packaging. Will they collect drums, crates, pallets, and containers from the last delivery?
- Use recycled and unbleached paper products in your factory and office areas. This saves trees and creates a demand for recycled products. Chemical bleaching (chlorination) to achieve pure white paper is unnecessary and polluting.
What about large plastic drums and chemical containers?
Plastic drums and chemical containers take up space in your garbage bin. As they are currently unrecyclable you should either reuse them or return them to your suppliers. Most suppliers will collect, wash and refill drums. Many large plastic drums now carry deposits. If your supplier will not collect them, there are others that will.
Recycling can reduce average garbage costs by half. Ask your council if it has a recycling service available. If not, a commercial recycling service may be an option. Look under 'Recycling' or under 'Waste Reduction & Disposal' in the Yellow Pages.
Waste recycling companies offer commercial services for recycling glass, aluminium, plastic, paper and cardboard, and many other products. These companies can also give advice and provide storage bins suitable for your business.
Industrial post-consumer waste, such as plastic film (transport packaging), is often suited for mechanical recycling, as it is a large volume of the same type of plastic and relatively clean waste. PET soft drink bottles and HDPE milk bottles are other examples of plastic that can be recycled. Check with your local council for the types of plastics that are collected in their kerb-side collection service to understand which plastics to reuse and recycle. Avoid buying products in plastic containers that cannot be recycled or reused.
Most chemical containers and drums are currently unrecyclable, so you should either reuse them or return them to your suppliers. Most suppliers will collect, wash and refill drums. Many large plastic drums now carry cash deposits. If your supplier will not collect them, there are others who will.
All glass bottles and jars are recyclable. Broken cups and plates are not recyclable.
Paper and cardboard
Most paper and cardboard can be recycled. There are many excellent collection systems available to make the task easier, including cardboard baling machines, metal frames with suspended woolsacks, and bins. Ask your waste services company.
Handling wastes on-site
- If wastes are kept on-site they should be classified, labelled and packaged properly and then stockpiled securely (e.g. in a roofed and bunded area that rainwater cannot enter). Any stored wastes that find their way into the stormwater system (especially during rain) could cause pollution, and you could face an on-the-spot fine or prosecution.
- Remember, if you are a generator of hazardous waste you are responsible for classifying it and ensuring that it is transported to a facility that is licensed to receive and/or treat that type of waste. Your waste contractor should be able to provide advice on these issues.
- Some problem wastes, such as drums containing hazardous waste sludge, gas cylinders, asbestos, and synthetic mineral fibres, require special attention for safe and proper disposal. Ask your local council or the DECC Environment Line for disposal requirements for these wastes.
- Material put into your industrial waste bin will generally go to landfill. Do not put any liquid waste in the waste bin. Place only dry, solid, inert wastes in industrial waste bins. Drain and clean anything containing leftover fluid first.
- Liquid waste can sometimes be treated and discharged to the sewer. A trade waste permit must be obtained first. (Refer to Trade Wastewater)
- For premises licensed by the EPA, liquid waste can be treated and discharged in accordance with the provisions outlined in the EPA licence. (This would generally not apply to many small businesses)
- Under some circumstances liquid waste may be recycled on-site.
- Any liquid wastes (e.g sludge and scum) awaiting collection by a licensed contractor should be properly labelled and packaged, and stored within a secure and bunded area.
- Your local council
- DECC Environment Line, Tel:131 555
- Reverse Garbage, Tel: (02) 9569 3231 – a community organisation that collects nonhazardous industrial discards for reuse by schools and community groups
- Yellow Pages – look under 'Waste Reduction & Disposal Services'
Page last updated: 27 February 2011