We’ve all heard the term ‘commercial waste’, but what does it actually mean? And why is it important?

In short, commercial waste consists of a number of different waste products generated in office, event, kitchen, and retail environments. The waste produced in these environments makes up a huge portion of Australia’s total waste production. In 2013-2014 commercial and industrial businesses were responsible for a third of the total generated waste in Australia, weighing in at 17.13 million tonnes of waste.

Retail businesses in NSW alone could recycle an extra 31,655 tonnes of plastic and 35,937 tonnes of plastic each year – and it’s not just good for the environment, it’s good for business too.

How To Reduce Waste In A Commercial Environment

What Is Commercial Waste?

Commercial waste is any waste produced by a business onsite – including paper, cardboard, cans, retail packaging, food wrappers, and other food waste. This waste legally has to be disposed of in a certain way; it can’t be taken home by employees to be disposed of in domestic bins.

Businesses have a responsibility for the disposal of their commercial waste. It’s illegal to improperly dispose of this waste – and it can have devastating environmental impacts, including air and water pollution.

Click here for tips on safely and effectively managing your commercial waste.

What Is The Difference Between Domestic And Commercial Waste?

According to the Queensland Government, not all waste is created equal. There are a few key differences between commercial waste and domestic waste, and most of these differences come down to where the waste was created.

Domestic waste is anything produced as a result of ordinary, day-to-day use of domestic premises. This waste is either taken from the site by the occupier who generated it, or it’s collected by the local government as part of an organised waste collection or disposal system.

Even on domestic premises, waste isn’t classified as domestic if said waste is removed (or created) by a commercial arrangement. For example, any waste created and removed by builders paid to perform renovations on a home would be commercial waste, not domestic waste.

Commercial waste entails everything that isn’t domestic waste. Commercial waste could be generated as a result of the normal operations of businesses or not-for-profits, including waste created by maintenance activities like mowing lawns or clipping gardens. Commercial waste also includes any waste produced by the customers of a given business, like food wrappers or single-use drink containers.

It’s important to know the difference between commercial and domestic waste because the rules for disposing of these kinds of waste are different. Businesses may be subject to additional legislative frameworks and have to meet certain council requirements when disposing of their commercial waste, so it’s best to reduce the waste your business is producing wherever possible.

How To Reduce Waste In An Office

There are a number of ways offices can reduce the amount of commercial waste they produce.

Something as simple as investing in a coffee machine (so your employees aren’t constantly purchasing takeaway cups) can make a huge difference in the total amount of commercial waste being produced.

Go Paperless With Notes

In today’s technology-dependent landscape, most handwritten notes end up getting thrown out or typed up, so why not save time and paper by taking notes digitally in the first place?

Not only will you be helping your company reduce their commercial waste outputs, but you’ll be doing yourself a favour too. Gone are the days of misplaced post-it notes – it’s much more difficult to lose a note you’ve written on your computer or smartphone.

Encourage Digital Documents And Not Printing

Digital note taking is just one way businesses can reduce their paper waste. It’s best to keep things digital and avoid printing where possible, but if it’s absolutely necessary to use the printer, ensure it’s set up for double-sided printing to reduce the number of sheets of paper being used. If double-sided printing isn’t possible, encourage any employees that prefer analogue note taking to reuse any one-sided prints as scratch paper. This means less waste and longer lasting supplies, ultimately saving the company money.

Upcycle or Recycle Old Office Equipment

Old office equipment – from phones to printers to computers to cables – can easily be recycled or upcycled. Batteries, ink cartridges, and old CDs (as well as other office supplies or furniture) are commonly collected for recycling, but often these items can have their lifespan extended through upcycling.

Before throwing old office equipment in the recycling bin, consider implementing an upcycle station that employees can check before purchasing new supplies.

How To Reduce Waste In A Commercial Kitchen

Food waste – unused or wasted food products that end up in landfill – makes up a large portion of the waste generated by commercial kitchens and the food sector.

In the UK, restaurants produce over 915,000 tonnes of waste each year, 200,000 of which is food waste, and in the USA each person produces around 20 pounds (over 9kg) of food waste each month.

Reducing Food Waste

There are several straightforward strategies businesses can implement to reduce food waste including a food wastage audit, a compost bin or even taking leftover food home instead of throwing it out.

Not only does minimising food waste have financial benefits, but it ultimately minimises the amount of waste ending up in landfill.

Recycling Leftover Food

Reducing food wastage requires commitment throughout every stage of the food service process.

Businesses can start reducing their food waste before they have even placed an order; completing a simple food waste audit can help commercial kitchens to assess where the majority of their excess food waste is coming from.

They can also reduce food waste by adjusting how much food they order in the first instance. By ordering less food, and by ensuring all food being ordered can reasonably be put to use before expiring, commercial kitchens can minimise the amount of wasted food remaining unused and going to waste.

Commercial kitchens can also implement FIFO as a food waste management strategy – first in, first out. Using the oldest food first, and ensuring all remaining food is stored correctly, helps to minimise food waste and can actually save money as they will not buy products in excess.

If commercial kitchens do find themselves with leftovers, where possible they can donate leftover food to soup kitchens or shelters. Food scraps from fruits, vegetables, or bread can be composted if they cannot be donated.

Recycling White Goods

White goods are another item on the long list of things to recycle. Any appliances that still work can be donated to charities or given away on freecycle, a NSW nonprofit movement aimed at keeping functional items out of landfill.

If the white goods don’t work anymore, contact the local council to see if they hold white goods clean up days. The council will also be able to advise if local waste depots will accept white goods for recycling.

How To Reduce Waste In Retail Store

According to Waster, between 2000 and 2014 clothing production doubled, but we’re now keeping our clothes for half as long despite buying 60% more than we used to. But it gets worse – each year, typical retail stores will generate 7.5 cubic metres of waste per employee, and each full time employee in NSW retail outlets generates between 0.7 and 4.4kg of waste per day.

So how can retail businesses reduce their commercial waste production?

Donate Spare Mechanise

Leftover merchandise is just one factor that contributes to the overall commercial waste production of retail businesses.

To reduce this waste, spare or slightly damaged merchandise can be donated to second hand stores, shelters, or charities. This merchandise could also be given as gifts to staff or sold at a discounted price.

Have Accurate Inventory Management

Businesses can also practice waste reduction by accurately managing their inventory.

Particularly if a business sells perishables (like certain food products, including fruits and vegetables), inventory management is one of the key ways waste (especially food waste) can be reduced. There are a number of inventory management softwares available to help optimise ordering and organisation in a commercial environment.

How To Reduce Waste At Commercial Events

In an effort to reduce waste at commercial events, the City of Sydney has developed a set of guidelines in accordance with their “Leave Nothing to Waste Strategy and Action Plan”. These guidelines support the city’s objective to reach a zero waste vision by 2030, and will apply to City of Sydney staff, contractors, and other entities using city venues or spaces to host events or deliver services.

The guidelines entail four main zero waste principles: reduce/avoid, reuse, recycle, recover. These principles provide a framework for making events more sustainable in the future.

One of the main ways events will be affected moving forward is through the phasing out of single use items, namely plastic water bottles; studies show that up to 1 million plastic drinking bottles are purchased globally each minute, with less than 50% collected for recycling.

Subject to certain exceptions (including accessibility adjustments made for individuals with disabilities or medical requirements), a number of single use items will no longer be freely available at events. Some items no longer permitted will be bottled water, plastic utensils (including straws, cups, and other serveware), and promotional flyers.

More sustainable alternatives to these items will be provided: water fountains or portable water stations will be available, and the use of existing cups and serveware will be encouraged. Single use items will still be available for individuals in the community that require them.

Onsite Recycling Bins And Waste Bins

Most commercial businesses will already know that public or semi-public events necessitate certain waste collection measures, the simplest of which is the need for numerous small, accessible bins that can later be entered into a larger bin for collection. Having recycling bins onsite at events can also help to drastically reduce both environmental footprint and cleanup time. Most patrons will already be accustomed to using these facilities, and this is an easy strategy for ensuring recyclable items are disposed of responsibly.

Environmentally Friendly Packaging

When planning events, businesses need to consider waste reduction at each stage of the planning process. Merchandise being sold at events should be sold in environmentally friendly packaging instead of plastic wrapping where possible. Consider also if there are any available alternatives to plastic cutlery – bamboo or reusable cutlery are both more environmentally friendly than their plastic counterparts.

Ensure Waste Is Disposed Of Ethically And Sustainably

There are a number of rubbish collection services available for all types of commercial waste; these services ensure that different kinds of waste are being disposed of appropriately. They take the guesswork out of waste disposal, guaranteeing that local regulations are followed and that any recyclable items are disposed of or relocated accordingly so they don’t end up in landfill.

Check out 1300Rubbish for more information about commercial rubbish disposal.