Facilities Management: How to Reduce Plastic Waste in the Workplace

Plastic provides many benefits: cheap and easy to manufacture, lightweight and durable.  Unfortunately, these resilient properties mean that it is nearly impossible for it to breakdown naturally.  Sustainable waste management is an important aspect of Facilities Management, and minimizing plastic waste is a key objective for GSH and our clients. Continue reading to learn more…

Introduction

Plastic provides many benefits: cheap and easy to manufacture, lightweight and durable. Unfortunately, these resilient properties mean that it is nearly impossible for it to breakdown naturally. Sustainable waste management is an important aspect of Facilities Management, and minimizing plastic waste is a key objective for GSH and our clients.

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Some Facts

Think about your daily routine and the plastic waste produced, whether it is shampoo bottles, milk cartons, drink bottles and caps, cookie/sandwich trays, food packaging, cigarette butts, straws, stirrers, coffee cups (and lids) and plastic cutlery. There are also many items that contain plastics which may surprise you such as tea bags, exfoliating facewash, whitening toothpaste and chewing gum.

This added to plastic waste produced by the building, construction, retail, textiles and other sectors contributes to approximately 300 million tonnes of plastic waste that is generated globally every year.

Waste Management

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So, you take the plastic item in your hand and place it into the recycling container: you’ve done your bit, right? Not quite. Many nations produce more waste that what they can process internally, leading to the export of some plastic waste: in the United Kingdom, approximately two thirds of plastic waste is exported, primarily to Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand.

Of the 300 million tonnes of plastic produced globally each year, an estimated 8 million tonnes are carried into the world’s oceans, predominantly by rivers; 90% of this waste is carried by only 10 rivers (8 in Asia and 2 in Africa). Many plastic items never fully break down and can be consumed by animals who mistake them for food, leading to plastic entering the human food chain.

Figure 4 - Replacement of plastic garbage bags with green compostable bags

Reducing Plastic Waste

In order to counter the recycling issues highlighted above and minimize plastic waste, many governments are starting to act. Some offer incentives for recycling, while special taxes or even banning specific products has been introduced: most countries in Africa now have a total ban on production and use of plastic bags. GSH has worked with many of our clients to reduce plastic waste and provide all new GSH employees with a reusable water bottle. We collaborated with Jaguar Land Rover in North America and helped save over 2800 plastic water bottles each month by promoting the use of water fountains and reusable bottles. In Sanand, India GSH worked with Ford to ban plastic plates, tumblers, cups, drinking straws, bags and cutlery across the site, substituting them with sustainable alternatives. GSH also eradicated use of plastic garbage bags at Bosch Rexroth sites by replacing them with 100% compostable bags.

Next Steps

As the saying goes: think globally, act locally. Taking action to reduce or eradicate use of plastics and therefore minimize waste at a small-scale, local level can have a global impact. Carry a reusable water bottle, coffee cup or flask, use a paper straw (or don’t use at all), replace cling film/food wrap with foil (and be sure to recycle the foil), use loose leaf tea or plastic free bags, substitute shampoo bottles, shower gels and hand wash with bars of shampoo and soap; all of these are relatively cheap and easy to implement. Minimising the plastic waste produced at your facility can reduce pollution and have a positive impact on the global environment, contact GSH today to discuss how we can help you achieve this.

References

[1] United Nations Environment Assembly (2019): Beat Plastic Pollution

https://www.unenvironment.org/interactive/beat-plastic-pollution/?_ga=2.78687261.808432845.1575989468-2061933602.1575989468