Zero waste week (2nd-7th September) is all about helping everyone waste fewer materials. That’s why, to celebrate, we’re making a quick guide on how you can reduce your food waste and plastic consumption! If you follow these steps, you can not only reduce waste collection costs for your business, but you can help to save the planet.
Zero Waste – Food
First off, we’ll start with food. Whether it’s unsold and out-of-date products in the catering industry, or that sandwich you didn’t finish in the office, the amount of waste produced by food is something all businesses need to be aware of. Dealing with it is a lot easier than you think! It doesn’t take too much effort; it’s just about forming healthy habits in the workplace.
To do your best dealing with food waste, you must first be aware of the food waste hierarchy. The structure of this is approved by the government and recommended by them for any business and is paired with a warning to order no more food than what’s necessary for company supplies. The structure of the hierarchy is as follows:
The food waste hierarchy
#1 – Prevention – The simplest method of dealing with food waste is to try and reduce the amount of it in general. Limiting the production levels to only the necessary amount, as well as advising customers to purchase what they’re sure to use, will be a starting point in seeing a reduction of the waste all food produces. Buying much more than you need is a sure-fire way to waste a lot of it.
#2 – Reuse – Reusing food may seem difficult, but is accomplish-able if you focus on the right types of food. Obviously, meat isn’t going to be one for reuse, but vegetables are excellent options for use in composting, which can even lead to your workplace producing its own food if you have the space for it. Even bones can be reused as the base layer of a stock/broth for employees to make at home. Citrus fruit peels can also be used as a natural air freshener or cleaning product, many use lemons for this.
As long as you can stay creative in finding an alternate use for food, it won’t be hard to reuse what’s left for something better than sitting in a landfill.
#3 – Recycling – Normally, you can’t recycle a food item after it’s passed its sell-by date. Because of this, sometimes an alternate form of reusing is needed. The process of anaerobic digestion is to use the gases released when the food rots for energy, by placing them in an area where they’re cut off from oxygen. By doing so, it will produce biogases that are usable as an energy source, with the leftovers known as digestate being an option as a fertiliser.
#4 – Other recovery – Though not recommended for the environment, it is still slightly better than letting the food rot in a landfill and can at least be used as a heat source. If any of the previous options aren’t possible, then it may be seen as a possibility.
#5 – Disposal – Simply put, this is the option required if none of those previously mentioned are available. The true last resort, only to be used if nothing else works.
Once you’re familiar with these 5 categories, you can group all of the food waste you create and deal with it a lot more effectively.
We recommend using raw food scraps like vegetable peels, rotten vegetables, bread, fruit, oatmeal, rice etc as fertiliser if your workplace could benefit from something like that!
Zero Waste – Plastic
Plastic was maybe designed a little too well. It was designed to be durable, reliable and last a long time, which it does pretty effectively. The problem is that after it’s been used, it’ll outlive anyone that had a hand in making it. Here’s how you can get more use out of your plastic.
First of all, avoiding excessive plastic is probably the best thing you can do for plastic numbers. If you’re in an office environment, please stop buying plastic cups. It’s a much better investment, financially and environmentally, to have a “bring your own mug” policy and to buy a few more just in case.
In the same vein, you can reduce your plastic waste significantly by not buying plastic straws, switching to paper or biodegradable ones, that are a lot better for the environment.
There are plenty of plastic-free toilet rolls available online (we recommend https://uk.whogivesacrap.org/ as they have a subscription service- and donate half of their profits to help build toilets and improve sanitation in the developing world!), and a quick Google search of the items you need will provide you with a huge number of options.
You also may not know this, but standard teabags contain around 25% plastic in them to keep the bag sealed when in water. Because of this, tea bags aren’t compostable.
Fortunately, you can keep teabags without losing in terms of money or your fight against waste. Like most approaches to going green, it only requires switching to an alternative – pyramid silk bags being a notable option, or finding other biodegradable options through research.
With this information, we hope you can start your journey towards zero waste!