How to reduce waste in your small business

Blogs 10 May 2023

Discover the small steps you can take to reduce your waste, how to carry out a waste audit, and a five-step process you can follow.

For any small business, improving your waste management will bring lots of positives. Less waste will mean a smaller carbon footprint, less requirement for landfill space, and reduced impact on biodiversity loss.  

What are the benefits of reducing waste for small businesses? 

Addressing waste problems can also lead to: 

  • Improved reputation with customers 
  • Increased job satisfaction for current employees 
  • Compliance with UK’s current regulations 
  • Being prepared for any changes to regulations in the future 
  • Cost savings in your business 

How can you reduce your waste? 

To start the process of reducing your waste, you are advised to do a waste audit. A waste audit can be thought of as a ‘dumpster dive’. Essentially, all a waste audit involves is separating your waste into different categories (e.g. cardboard, glass, etc.) and weighing how much you produce over a given time, often a week. If you are a small company with a small amount of waste, you can do one yourself, or you can hire a professional to conduct one for you.  

Once you have completed your waste audit, you can then plan how to reduce your waste. The best way to do this is to follow the waste hierarchy. You should assess your waste and try to tackle it using the following steps: 

  1. Prevention: the most effective way of reducing waste is to stop it from happening in the first place.  
  2. Reuse: the next step is to try and reuse anything that you are currently throwing away. 
  3. Recycle: identify anything that is currently being thrown in the waste bin that should be being recycled. 
  4. Recovery: identifying any waste that could be used by others to generate a new product - this is an important step to reduce the pressure society puts on our natural resources. 
  5. Disposal: the final step is to process the rest for landfill or incineration. 

To be most effective, the waste hierarchy should be done in the order they are listed, so prevention should always be the first choice.  

Visit the UK Business Climate Hub for more help and information > 

Next steps 

Here are some practical tips you can try to reduce waste in your business.  

  • You can work with suppliers of any product you use to remove unnecessary packaging 
  • You can remove any unnecessary packaging from your own products 
  • Try switching away from paper to digital in as many situations as you can  
  • Consider joining a circular economy club that connects small businesses in your local area that might be interested in using and buying your waste 
  • Separate your recycling into separate bins which improves recycling rates and gives you the opportunity to potentially sell your waste. Common separate bins would be cardboard, paper, glass, tin cans/aluminium, food, and (most) plastics. 
  • Consult the government list of approved waste buyers to see if any of your waste can be sold 
  • If items that can be recycled are not by your local authority, then you could pay for an approved waste contractor to collect it instead., but make sure you get a waste transfer note if you pursue this route 
  • More information and free resources can be found at WRAP and Zero Waste Scotland  

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The race to a net zero economy by 2050 has begun. We’re making sure small businesses aren’t left out of the big picture. Visit our sustainability hub today to explore free resources.

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