Now more than ever, the commercial sector should be taking waste management seriously. Proper waste disposal and recycling initiatives demonstrate that an organisation is actively working to reduce its environmental impact. However, the reality is that too many businesses are sidelining sustainability.

In September 2023, the latest edition of the National Municipal Waste Characterisation Project was released by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Sadly, the results indicate that businesses have done very little over the past few years to update their waste management practices. Waste generation has only increased, which, coupled with stagnating recycling rates, means Ireland is unlikely to meet impending EU sustainability deadlines.

Efficient waste management initiatives not only help organisations negate their environmental impact. By implementing just a few minor changes and empowering employees with knowledge, companies can improve efficiency and stamp out unnecessary costs.

If you’re struggling to adapt to new regulations and implement policy, Brosnan Property Solutions can help. A key part of our industry-leading facility management services, we’ll help you meet your waste management objectives. In urgent need of some pointers? Read on for everything you need to know to design and deploy a successful waste management strategy.

Waste Audits: What Are They and Why Are They So Important?

Why is facility management important when it comes to how a business handles waste? Every organisation produces some degree of waste. If this waste is stored incorrectly or contamination becomes a problem, there can be serious health and safety implications. Failure to comply with current regulations also puts a company in a precarious position legally.

Performing a waste audit lets you build a clear picture of what’s going on with waste generation. Along with waste types, an overall volume will be established. “By determining quantity, source, and overall composition, an FM builds a clear picture of what’s going on with current waste management and identifies ways efficiency can be improved,” said Ray Brosnan, the Managing Director of Brosnan Property Solutions.

Best Practices for Performing an Audit

You’ll need to employ facility management best practices for a successful audit. First, see what data regarding waste is currently available. Are there retrievable records of previous waste volumes, types, and sources? Look at documentation regarding disposal practices as well. Most businesses should have a record of waste collection timetables and invoices settled with waste management service providers. With this information collected, find out where waste is being generated. Get an idea of the volume and the type of waste currently being produced.

Next, look at the composition. Visual inspections are fine, but manual sorting of a random sample provides a much better idea of the reality of your waste management situation.

Even if they’re not particularly effective, every business should have some waste management procedures in place. Look at any active recycling programs, waste segregation performance and disposal techniques. With all this established, you can pinpoint ways to improve procedures in general.

Now think about where you want the business to be in terms of waste management. Be realistic with this. You should of course strive to operate more sustainably, but planting a goalpost that’s unachievable is counterproductive. Now you’re ready to compose a final audit report. Present conclusions drawn from available data, propose suggestions for improvement and underline key objectives and any relevant timetables.

The Essentials of Sustainable Waste Management

Sustainability hinges on a three-pronged philosophy. Businesses that follow the concept of reduce, reuse and recycle tend to have a better chance at curbing waste generation and meeting sustainability targets. Reducing waste should be a key focus area. You can help achieve targets by thinking about things like eco-friendly alternatives to product packaging.

Revising inventory management procedures will also reduce a supply surplus and stamp out unnecessary waste. Next, think about what can be reused. Introduce procedures for sharing and reusing key supplies, and consider whether an asset can be reconditioned before it’s replaced.

In November 2023, the EPA published its latest Circular Economy and Waste Statistics Highlights Report. The report reveals that Ireland is falling short of mandatory EU recycling targets that come into effect in 2025. A particularly worrying statistic is that 70% of the contents of general waste containers can be recycled.

Stress the importance of recycling to everyone within your organisation. Promote recycling initiatives, making systems as user-friendly as possible. By thoroughly documenting data, you can report on the success of new initiatives and identify areas that need to be refined.

Segregation Systems: An Integral Part of Effective Waste Management

Even if you plan on outsourcing facility management to a third party, you need to think about segregation systems. When the wrong materials end up in the wrong containers, contamination becomes an issue. In another key finding from the EPA, it was revealed that food waste accounts for a staggering 30% of the contents of commercial sector general waste bins. Plastics made up 15%. This is even though organic waste bins and accessible recycling channels are readily available.

An easy way to remedy this issue is by introducing proper segregation systems in a facility. To implement these successively, you’ll need to look at current waste streams. What’s being generated, and where is it coming from? Now you know what systems are needed. Next, decide where segregation will happen. Pick locations that are accessible and identify them with signage. You should also ensure recycling containers are large enough to store large volumes of recyclable material. To make life easier, go for colour-coded containers and use symbol-based instructions.

Education is also key. You can distribute leaflets and display posters to summarise new guidelines relating to waste segregation. Promote the positives, underscoring the environmental benefits of the initiative. Investing in regular training is also advised. With your employees trained and systems introduced, you can now monitor progress. This way, you can be confident about compliance and that a business is achieving its sustainability targets. Forging a strong relationship with waste management service providers is also advised. You can guarantee that waste is being collected and recycled correctly while accessing a valuable informational channel for updates on new regulations and best practice guidance.

Now analyse the data to discover ways you can improve. You can turn to cold, hard figures or reach out to employees for feedback. Are there any particular pain points? What elements can be improved or introduced to make waste segregation easier for everyone? Along with making essential changes, you’re promoting the concept of waste management and recycling as a shared responsibility.

Boosting Awareness and Building a Culture of Sustainability

“To stand a better chance at reaching waste management targets, everyone within your organisation needs to understand why waste management is so important,” Ray Brosnan commented. “Utilise every available channel to get the message across. Stay connected with company newsletters, reach out via email, or use old-fashioned bulletin boards in shared spaces.”

Share updates on milestones to incentivise continued commitment and provide the latest data to reaffirm how important waste management is. You also need to be confident that everyone knows how to use recycling systems correctly. Are clear instructions readily accessible? Hold training sessions before rolling out new procedures for increased odds of success.

If you want to encourage a workforce to embrace waste management initiatives, prioritise employee engagement. Develop programs that involve employees directly in the design and implementation of waste management strategies. You can invite key figures from different departments to help develop ideas and encourage knowledge sharing. Don’t forget to recognise and reward success. Continued effort shouldn’t go unnoticed, so make a point of giving shout-outs to top performers in internal communications. Finally, make sure that waste management education is an ongoing process.

Key Things To Remember and Pitfalls To Avoid

Even if waste management has fallen by the wayside, getting a business back on track is possible. To get things started, you need to take stock of the situation with an in-depth audit. Use audit data to outline key findings, propose improvements, and set clear objectives. You should also prioritise internal communication and make recycling processes as accessible as possible.

Improper disposal of waste is a major issue in Ireland, so stress the importance of segregation. Use regular monitoring for continuous improvement, and nurture collaborative relationships with waste management partners. This way, you’ll remain updated on best practices and key updates relating to compliance.

Need Help with FM and Waste Management?

Are you struggling to meet internal waste management targets? Outsourcing facility management to an experienced service provider can help alleviate the burden. At Brosnan Property Solutions, we have extensive experience in delivering first-rate FM and waste management support to clients across Ireland.

If bringing in outside help has won the in-house vs outsourcing FM argument, why not see how Brosnan Property Solutions can help you? Use the online contact form to schedule a callback. Alternatively, reach out to us on 0818 333770.