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Managing Waste in the Workplace

Did you know? Effective waste management can reduce the amount of waste you send to landfill by up to 50%. The important thing to remember is to reduce, reuse and recycle…
There are four steps necessary to properly manage waste:

  • Identify Wastes
  • Evaluate Wastes
  • Manage Wastes
  • Arrange for Disposal of Waste

Criteria used for evaluating wastes
Wastes can be categorized as follows:
a. Non-hazardous Waste (e.g., regular solid waste, paper, soda cans, yesterday’s coffee)
b. Hazardous Radioactive Waste: waste containing or contaminated with a radioactive isotope.
c. Hazardous Biological Waste: waste containing or contaminated with an infectious or potentially infectious agent, a biological toxin, an animal carcass, a genetically modified organism, recombinant DNA, etc.
d. Hazardous Chemical Waste: waste chemicals, products which are chemical in nature (cleaning agents, paint, motor oil, and pharmaceuticals), products that contain chemicals (fluorescent lamps, thermometers) or materials contaminated with chemicals (e.g., contaminated soil or rags).
e. Otherwise Regulated Waste (e.g., asbestos, car batteries, electronics, construction debris)
The evaluation must determine the characteristics of the waste and whether the waste is regulated or managed as hazardous. When evaluating your waste refer to the Resources for Managing Waste Materials listed below for guidance, instructions and to ensure compliance with University waste programs.
The evaluation process should also include a waste minimization and pollution prevention process. Why is the waste being generated? Can the waste be eliminated? Can the amount of waste be reduced? If the waste is hazardous, can it be replaced by something non-hazardous or can the process generating the waste be modified to render the waste non-hazardous?
Waste Management Checklist
You can reduce the amount of office/ paper waste by adhering to the following:

  • Set your printer to double-sided printing
  • Encourage staff to print les
  • Send newsletters via email
  • Make your brochure available online
  • Use emails in preference to post
  • Install a drinking water dispenser attached straight to the pipes
  • Buy purchases in bulk
  • Do not use any disposable items, such as cups or stirrers in staff coffee areas
  • Order brochures in small numbers, and re-order if necessary to reduce brochure wastage office Waste Management Checklist


  • Re-use paper for rough work
  • Only replace bin liners when absolutely necessary, not daily. For bins that mostly have dry waste, a liner is probably not needed at all.
  • Use refillable printer and copier cartridges
  • Chose returnable bottles, for water


  • Recycle paper and cardboard – including envelopes, magazines and old brochure stock
  • Glass, plastics, metal cans
  • Food / bio mater
  • Old printer cartridges
  • Old computers
  • Old office furniture
  • Place recycle bins throughout your office


1. Reduce your use of office paper
Copy paper, like the kind used in photocopiers, computer printers and plain-paper fax machines, is the most common type of office waste paper.

Tips for reducing paper use in the office

  • Try to use both sides of a sheet of paper for printing, copying, writing and drawing.
  • Reuse paper that’s already printed on one side by manually feeding it into copiers and printers. Use it for internal documents like drafts and short-lived items such as meeting agendas or temporary signs.
  • Once-used paper can also be reused in plain paper fax machines — they only need one clean side.
  • E-mail can be used to share documents and ideas. Be sure to only print the e-mails you need to have a hard copy of. This advice goes for Internet documents as well. Instead of printing a Web page, bookmark it or save the page on your hard drive and pull it up when needed.
  • Desktop fax, electronic references (CD-ROM databases), electronic data storage, electronic purchasing and direct deposit are all ways to use electronic mediathat reduce office paper waste.
  • Help minimize misprints by posting a diagram on how to load special paper like letterhead so it will be printed correctly.
  • Practice efficient copying — use the size reduction feature offered on many copiers. Two pages of a book or periodical can often be copied onto one standard sheet.
  • Use two-way or send-and-return envelopes. Your outgoing envelope gets reused for its return trip.
  • Use reusable inter- and intra-office envelopes.
  • Reuse old paper for notepads. It can be cut to custom sizes and simply bound with a staple.
  • Draft documents can be reviewed, edited and shared on-screen.

2. Discover Great Printing
Printers, designers, and print buyers can incorporate good environmental practices into their work to reduce the overall impact that printed materials have on the environment.
Strategies for printing greener

  • Print on both sides of the paper, and reduce the width of margins and font sizes. These options reduce waste and save both resources and money.
  • Keep your mailing list updated. Evaluate your data, delete duplicates, remove those who have requested to be off, and target your mailings to specific audiences. This can help save money on printing and mailing costs, provide you with a more effective mailing, and reduce waste throughout the printing process.
  • Request paper with pulp that is brightened without the use of chlorine. Chlorine bleaching creates a toxic, bio-accumulative waste by-product called dioxin. By demanding alternatives to chlorine-bleached papers, you help create new markets and encourage paper mills to move away from polluting production practices.
  • Use paper labelled totally chlorine-free (TCF) or processed chlorine-free (PCF). Both terms mean that the mill did not use chlorine compounds to brighten the paper. Talk to your paper vendor or printer about the price and availability of TCF and PCF papers. Both significantly reduce the persistent, bio-accumulative compounds in the mill wastewater that are associated with the traditional chlorine bleaching process.
  • Request inks with non-petroleum bases, such as soybeans or linseed.
  • Request inks that emit low amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Non-petroleum-based inks are usually lower in VOCs.
  • Use pre-press technologies that eliminate or reduce hazardous materials, such as direct-to-plate printing.
  • Buy paper that is produced by a company with a stated commitment to environmental stewardship, and to minimizing ecological impacts and ensuring long-term sustainable production.
  • Purchase and specify post-consumer recycled content papers. This helps expand the recycling market and assure recycling programs stay viable and effective. It also closes the loop by diverting waste from landfills and incinerators. As an added benefit, purchasing papers made from recycled stock means using fewer trees to make the paper.

3. Buying green for your office
The National Recycling Coalition recently published Purchasing Strategies to Prevent Waste and Save Money. This publication contains many useful ideas on how to purchase products that create less waste.
Here are some purchasing ideas for offices to make the workplace more environmentally friendly.

  • Refurbish and buy refurbished office equipment.
  • Reuse and refill toner cartridges and ribbons.
  • Purchase non-toxic, biodegradable cleaners that contain low- or no-volatile organic compounds.
  • Buy concentrates.
  • Buy in bulk.
  • Buy products that are reusable, returnable or refillable.
  • Buy recycled office products that contain post-consumer recycled material.
  • Use flexible interior features, such as movable walls, to reduce waste associated with renovation.
  • Choose durable materials and furnishings to reduce the costs and waste associated with replacement.

4. Building management tips
How a building is managed can affect environmental quality and employee health. There are several steps that building managers can take to reduce waste and protect the health of tenants and employees within a building.

  • Use reusable dishware in your company’s cafeteria and kitchen instead of disposables.
  • Use cloth towel roll dispensers in your bathrooms and cloth napkins and towels in your kitchens.
  • Where available, separate your building’s organic wastes from non-compostable trash and send it to a composting facility. This includes food wastes, waste from grounds keeping or gardening, and even soiled or unrecyclable paper products like paper towels and napkins.
  • Use paint and install carpeting that contains low levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs from paint, carpet, building materials and other office products can create unsafe indoor air quality in your work environment and cause Sick Building Syndrome.
  • Work with janitorial serviceprofessional service providers like creative Consolidated or staff to find ways to use less toxic, non-toxic and/or non-VOC harzadous cleaning products.

DID YOU KNOW? The World Health Organization estimates that nearly one-third of all commercial buildings have significant indoor air quality problems.