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Optimising waste management requires understanding how and why waste was created in the first place, and the best way to get rid of it, says Jo Gibbs.


03 June 2019 | Jo Gibbs

If FMs lift the lid of the average office bin, they can analyse its contents and lessen the waste or dispose of it in a different way.

It seems straightforward, but posters need to be put near bins to state explicitly what can and cannot be recycled, including caveats as to when normally recyclable items cannot be recycled, as in the case of contamination.

Here are some examples of misunderstood items:

  • Coffee machine capsules – many manufacturers offer post-back recycling.
  • Coffee grounds – put into food waste collections to reach anaerobic digestion.
  • Aluminium foil – if it is clean it can be recycled. 
  • Disposable coffee cups – any liquid left in the cup contaminates the bag of recycling in which it is placed – separate collections of disposable coffee cups are the best option.
  • Ready-made sandwiches – separately, the card and plastic components may be recyclable but when combined, they’re complex to reprocess.
  • Paper towels, blue roll, napkins and paper plates need to go into general waste.
  • Soap dispensers – the bottle can be recycled but the pump cannot.
  • Cardboard – can be recycled, only when it isn’t contaminated with liquids, including water or grease.


Share results

Another good way to motivate people is to share recycling results especially in the cases of multi-site contracts or at large mixed-use properties. 

When head office teams cascade waste management reports to site managers it empowers them with vital insights to keep campaigns running. If one floor in an office building has segregated waste well and has increased recycling rates, FMs can apply monetary values to demonstrate the cost savings. 

Build on the initial engagement with a consistent approach to maintain enthusiasm and positive changes. If recycling rates drop, a quick follow-up will help to get things back on track.


Learning from airports

An example of effective use of feedback to improve recycling has been developed within airports. In some terminals it’s possible to identify which recycling bags have come from which retailers. If there is any contamination, the recycling team is able to feed this data back to that retailer. This type of monitoring, combined with the initial education, delivers real behaviour change.

In an office setting, cleaning teams need to be engaged and monitored so that the people emptying bins transfer bags to the correct containers in the waste area.


Choose a partner

The most progressive businesses are looking beyond solutions from national operators, which can involve trucks being sent out to collect a business’s bin at a time that suits the operator best, not necessarily the business, and deploying broker-led models of waste management. 

Brokers typically have access to a wide network of trusted partners and local providers that can custom-design flexible solutions irrespective of location or waste type. 

If FMs can adopt a company-wide education programme that promotes a change in mindset, they will be able to generate increased recycling rates, reduce vehicle movements and improve the environment across their portfolio.  

An example of best practice

MJ Mapp is a leading property and asset management specialist with a UK portfolio of offices, business parks and shopping centres. 

We have developed bespoke site-by-site solutions to meet the company’s objectives and implemented them through networks with regional property or FMs. After a review and analysis of waste from each site, there was an opportunity to improve the recycling rates at one site in particular.  The businesses introduced solutions that reduced vehicle movements and achieved a 29 per cent rise in recycling levels. 

These processes delivered a cost saving of about £6,000 a year – and won MJ Mapp a Green Apple Award in 2017 for embedding sustainable business practices.  

Jo Gibbs is corporate sector director – FM at SWRnewstar