Responsible recycling: where now for FM?
It’s a great time for facilities managers to rethink their role and responsibilities in the great recycling and waste debate, says WARREN OVERTON.
Recycling has never been more topical. With the ABC recently broadcasting its War on Waste series, The Sydney Morning Herald reporting on a major recycling ‘rort’ in Queensland and ongoing repercussions from global recycling giant China placing restrictions on imported recyclables, serious questions are being asked about what we can do to responsibly recycle – ‘responsibly’ being the operative word.
Australia was once a leader in recycling, but has slipped in recent years. While China, one of the biggest markets for our recyclables, decided in January 2018 to take less of the world’s waste, the rate at which we are producing waste has been increasing at a rate of eight percent per year – double that of our population.
For facilities managers, there has never been a better time to rethink their role and responsibilities in the great waste debate. Of course, just because the topic is high on the public’s agenda, actioning a plan doesn’t become any easier. Facilities managers are often bogged down with the day-to-day operational demands of their organisation, making it a challenge to go beyond and create a facility that is truly doing its part to reduce, reuse and recycle (the three Rs).
WHERE TO BEGIN?
Familiarising yourself with the different types of e-waste in your environment is important. E-waste can include televisions, photocopiers, computers, laptops, phones, small household appliances and other office equipment.
In 2017/18 the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme – an industry- funded scheme providing a free service to the public – is aiming to recycle 62 percent of IT and TV e-waste in Australia. Given that businesses are among the largest producers of e-waste, it is all the more critical that they have a strategy in place to ensure the waste for which they are responsible is appropriately recycled.
A waste audit is a great first step towards figuring out how much waste you are producing and what type. This can be a foundation for developing further insights into where reductions could or should be made in your organisation and where the most economical recycling decisions could be made.
REVIEW YOUR ‘RS’
An audit may also be a launching point for rethinking your three ‘Rs’. The recent changes in China have seen the importation of 24 recyclable materials restricted, so everyone – facilities managers included – will need to think a little harder about how they are managing waste in order to avoid sending it back into Australian landfills. A little more emphasis on reducing and reusing, with recycling a sometimes necessary fall-back plan, would be advisable.
FMs can also take the opportunity created by an audit process to review how they are accessing the products they need in their environments. In some cases, switching your contractual arrangement to one where you lease, rather than buy, products such as computers or tablets could be a smart way of minimising your costs and impact. However, when signing contracts with new providers
for leasing arrangements, always be mindful to check what their obligations are to recycle their products once they’ve reached their end- of-life and been taken off your hands.
Many FMs could make it easier to make fast decisions on recycling e-waste if they took some time to get to grips with the data responsibilities for specific types of e-waste. Through our TechCollect program, we know that data privacy concerns can be a major stumbling block for those considering recycling. With the launch in February of the notifiable data breach scheme, mishandled data can come back to bite more painfully.
Dealing with leftover data doesn’t have to be a major stumbling block. We recommend that management wipe rather than simply delete their data. Where this is not straightforward, downloadable software can be used to make sure their waste is ready to be safely recycled.
REPUTATION, REPUTATION, REPUTATION
Charged with the responsibility of balancing waste management duties and costs, many FMs are looking for solutions that are simple, low-cost and reliable. But cost cannot be offset against reputation.
As recent investigations have shown, when companies partner with providers who are less than reputable, it can come back to haunt their own organisations from a brand reputation perspective. Luckily, low-cost does not necessarily have to mean poor reliability in this respect. When it comes to efficiently meeting any reporting requirements around recycling there are responsible recyclers who can also help you meet these demands.
THE POLICY PAY-OFF
Besides maintaining a cleaner, more efficient facility, evidence shows that a commitment to reduce, reuse and recycle can help the bottom line for facilities. The market today is more discerning about what types of environments it wants in its office and other buildings, with green buildings high on the list of preferences. When workers like their environment, they’re shown to be more productive too. Get them involved in the process and make sure they’re kept up to speed with all new initiatives to increase engagement.
Many in FM are grappling with the development of a policy on sustainability. It may not be easy and, in some ways, may appear to be more complicated today than in the past, but for many of the same reasons, these policies must be tackled. Once a plan is in place, the long-term pay-offs will be worth the effort, for both the facility and the environment.
This would be one obvious reason why the International Facility Management Association (IFMA) states that ‘environmental stewardship and sustainability’ should be considered one of the top three core competencies for FMs.
Together, our impact can be massive. Last year alone, ANZRP (Australian and New Zealand Recycling Platform) and TechCollect were able to generate carbon emissions savings from recycling e-waste with an impact equivalent to planting 208,256 trees, energy consumption savings equivalent to 26,032 households’ energy use and water consumption savings equal to 927 households’ annual usage.
Are you doing your bit? Get in touch with ANZRP If you’d like to find out more about how we can help you meet your goals.