Based on some interesting discussions with a few of our customers, we felt it would be a welcomed idea to create a guide setting out the main recycling, reuse, and waste management challenges and solutions for businesses renting space in multipurpose buildings.
The growth of small digital businesses, agencies and consultancies have reduced the demand for permanent office space, leading to a movement of location independent workforces who only occasionally require a physical space for meetings or operations. This change in digital work culture has been reflected by the emergence of serviced offices, networking hubs and co-working spaces. As a result, there are new and interesting waste challenges to be discussed.
When looking at London as a microcosm of the serviced office industry, we see common themes, such as small spaces, high usage turnover (several businesses may use one room in a single day), and a lack of interest in the waste these businesses generate. The mentality that we really need to break down and evolve beyond is the one that sees these multipurpose buildings as simply a solution to support them. A much better reasoning would suggest that behaving in a mutually beneficial way would improve the quality and performance of these spaces, and that is why the businesses who use them should engage in and promote the waste and recycling policies.
Of course, when probed, most people are happy to recycle, to reuse, and be more resource efficient, but often a gentle push in the right direction is a prerequisite. So, how do you engage and educate a building with a high turnover of workers coming and going constantly, with no guarantee that they will return? How do you implement your own policies on a rented space?
Well, you can engage them with sustainability, in fact, 75% of Millennials state that the environmental performance of a business is a major influencer of their purchasing decisions, and since the majority of location independent workers are under 30, this is a good place to start. Millennials want a highly stimulated, highly ambitious, and incredibly sustainable office solution, which is why boutique and grassroots co-working spaces are their usual go-to spots. If these places are popular because they reflect the ethos of the millennial, there’s nothing to stop companies like Regus, LEO, The Office Group, and WeWork making conscious changes in this direction. In fact, they already are.
Spatial challenges generally present themselves through inefficiency or over-production. For example, a multipurpose building that is serving all hot drinks in plastic or paper cups is going to produce a lot more waste than a company that serves in ceramics or runs a ‘bring your own mug’ policy. Creating solutions for reducing waste generation in the building, and also consolidating waste into one area, instead of having bins everywhere, are just a couple of good ideas. The greatest challenge for London spaces, as we covered in this article, is freeing up space, because generally as soon as space, even if it’s tiny, becomes available, it will quickly be filled by a desk and a worker. One man’s cupboard is another man’s office.
Finding solutions for sustainability is not hard, but it often takes collaboration, research, and incentive, three things that businesses often don’t associate with waste. However, starting from a financial point of view, reducing waste streams is one of the simplest ways to start cutting costs. Consider the waste disposal charges every time the bins are emptied, consider the staff time used to manage all of the waste, and consider the costs of the materials that are being thrown away. By reducing waste through policy changes, these three things all suddenly shrink, freeing up time, money and space. It’s a triple-win.
The truth about serviced offices and multi-purpose buildings becoming more sustainable is that it has to work as a combination of interest or pressure from the users of the space, or as a genuine movement from the owners or management. Once the desire is there, the changes can begin, and that should require a waste partner who will come equipped with ideas, strategy, vision and a mission, essentially all of the tools you need to make this journey a success.
Education and engagement should be a very high priority, as they translate several messages. Firstly, they say ‘here’s what we are doing for sustainability’, and at a deeper level they say ‘here’s what kind of people we are’, and on an even deeper level they act as a statement saying ‘when you work here, this is what you support, and who you are too. Can you get behind that?’. This education does not need to be done in the form of a lecture or training sessions, it needn’t be in the form of flyers, and it doesn’t have to be one-on-one meetings. In fact, it can be simple infographics stuck up in the lobby, it can be informative screensavers, it can be an email to the mailing list, it can be an awareness campaign on social media, it can be guidelines for new members, and it could even be a reward/punishment system.
In the world we now live in, data is key, and those who have it understand its true power, so consider that when you’re moving towards a more sustainable operation. Capturing as much data as possible on building users, energy consumption, devices connected to the wifi, and waste, and then being transparent with that data is going to build trust and optimization methods. Clear reporting is key to using data to drive change.
Spatial challenges for waste management will always be a problem, but one simple way to do it is to remove small waste bins from offices and set up a uniform recycling and waste station on each floor. Provide clear instructions, and as much separation of materials as possible, so that people get in the habit of bringing their waste to the right recycling bin, instead of simply throwing it in the general waste because it’s closer to them. The conscious thought of disposing of waste is going to develop good habits for your office or serviced space.
Engage with customers for market research purposes, and learn what they think can be done better. The feedback and suggestions they provide can be invaluable for learning about the perceived health of your building. Send out a survey in an email, or invite your space’s most frequent users and those who enjoy the service the most, to sit down and discuss sustainability.
The steps to follow
With all of the information above giving you the ammunition the change, it’s vital to know what changes should be prioritised, so use this section as a key.
Prevent waste at source
Make educated choices about who your suppliers are, what items they provide you with, and whether those items could be changed to reduce the amount of waste being created. As stated earlier in this article, removing paper cups and going for ceramics only is a simple change. Try and go paperless by digitizing certain processes – there are companies dedicated to creating solutions that allow you to use tablets and laptops in place of paper.
Reuse and Recycle
Reduction is key, but it’s almost inevitable that waste will be created, so whether you generate one kilogram or one tonne of waste, it needs to be dealt with responsibly. For offices, the typical waste streams being produced are plastic bottles, paper and food waste. Setting up separate bins for each waste stream, in one area of each floor, is a good way to get people to recycle. Putting literature on the walls, or in emails, will serve as a good reminder. For reuse, it must become policy that any broken tech is not thrown away, but instead repaired or refurbished, and that no bulky waste should be thrown away without seeing if there is a possible new home for it first.
Waste Management partner
You need a partner like Enviro Waste, who can act confidently as an extension of your company’s sustainability team. By working with us to implement your goals and ambitions for waste, we can use our connections, experience, and creativity to provide you with the solutions that you need. Some waste management companies want to treat you like a customer, tie you into a very long contract, and give you a generic service, so be conscious of whether you are being treated like a strategic partner or a customer. For us, you’ll always be a partner.