SME Owners: Here’s How to Manage Your Business Waste

At the end of October 2023, the UK government reported that there were more than 5.6 million SMEs in the UK. While many of these businesses will have plenty to contend with when it comes to distributing their attention, one of the daily operations that cannot afford to be forgotten about is waste management.

Poorly curated waste management can not only lead to inefficiencies in a business but can contribute negatively to sustainability goals and result in missed cost savings. For a better understanding of why and how you should manage the waste created by your small business, this guide offers everything from the beginning steps to setting up for the future.

Recognising the importance of proper waste management
Proper waste management for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) doesn’t just reduce the impact that your business has on the environment but can also have a huge impact on perceptions of your company and its reputation. Customer and consumer behaviours are shifting more towards businesses that are sustainably minded, which is why operating with consciousness in mind can help businesses stay competitive.

Scott Hawthorne. Founding Director of Skips & Bins, leading suppliers of 4-yard skips for businesses of all sizes, have expressed the importance of SME owners understanding the intricacies of waste management: “Knowing what waste you produce will impact how much you spend on your waste collection. SMEs tend to have less options in terms of volumes of waste collection, and three small bins will always cost more than big bins.

“This makes scaling a more costly process that many haven’t considered and while many companies want to make the right decisions around their waste, many aren’t willing to make the financial commitment to it.”

Conduct a waste audit
The first step to effective waste management is carrying out a waste audit that analyses what waste your business produces and the quantity of it. By understanding which areas of your business produce what kind of waste including production, packaging, and office and admin, it identifies opportunities for where you can improve the management of it.

Strategize a waste management plan
Once you’ve conducted a waste audit, create a strategy for a waste management plan with clear objectives and targets to act as a roadmap for how to reduce the amount of waste produced and improve the efficiency of resources. This can be as simple as incorporating waste segregation, appropriate training for your workforce on correct disposal practices, and working closely with recycling facilities or waste management companies. Businesses should also look to analyse their own processes and see where waste can be minimised throughout the supply chain.

Engage your workforce
By engaging your workforce and creating a culture of sustainability throughout your business, it can help to foster the importance of reducing waste produced and promote the importance of recycling. Providing education and training sessions for employees to learn more about the best practices and the importance of resource conservation can help them better implement the ideas in their day-to-day practices.

Embrace emerging technology
Tracking technology has made the identification of waste generation, collection schedules, and recycling rates more accessible than ever, and even opens up the possibility of real-time monitoring. By having the data in front of you, you’re better equipped to make informed decisions about your waste management strategies and your approach to them.

Measure success
By regularly monitoring how effective your strategy and processes are, you can make on-the-fly adjustments and set longer-term goals for reducing the waste produced. This can be done through introducing key performance indicators (KPIs) to assess how clean the processes are, which can be things such as cost savings, the rate of waste diversion, and the environmental impact they have. Not only does this point out problem areas but also allows you to celebrate positives and achievements that occur.

Build collaborative partnerships
Collaboration is key to addressing complex challenges such as waste management. Building partnerships with suppliers, customers, and local community organisations helps explore opportunities for waste reduction initiatives and circular economy practices. By working together towards common goals, you can leverage collective resources and expertise to create positive change and drive sustainable business practices.

Having an appropriate strategic waste management in place means that SME owners of all sizes can better support their business, while also improving the perception of how sustainable their business is. Whether that’s leveraging partnerships or measuring success through KPIs and emerging technology, you can ensure that the long-term sustainability targets are met to keep you clean in the public eye as well as with local legislation.


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