Waste management overview

What is waste management?

Any comprehensive sustainability action plan must address waste management. Waste is considered in a hierarchy; avoidance is the most preferable, then re-use, recycling, recovery, disposal. A waste management plan should consider all items consumed by the tenancy and seek to optimise performance at each level of the hierarchy. It should consider multiple stakeholders, from procurement to building occupants, cleaners, building managers, waste contractors and waste facility operators.

Why do it?

All activities undertaken in a building put some pressure on the use of the earth’s resources. Programs to reduce waste preserve resources for future generations and stops landfill pollution. Recycling re-captures valuable and non-renewable resources for remaking into other products.

In a work environment, addressing waste and recycling along with energy also helps to positively engage employees and demonstrate the cumulative benefits of their action. The proliferation of electronic devices and fast replacement cycle is particularly relevant to offices. Computers, for example, can leach toxic mercury, lead, beryllium and cadmium into the environment if they end up in landfill. However, they also have good resource recovery potential of precious and non-renewable resources like tin, nickel, zinc and copper – creating a strong case for recycling.

How to approach waste management

  • Consider each waste stream with a view to minimising waste and cost to the business. The common areas of attention for office waste management are paper and card, materials recycling (glass, plastic, metal), e-waste and food.
  • For paper, equipment settings like double siding, staff practices and procurement policies can make a measureable difference to consumption. However, many other office consumables can be reduced through every-day practices.
  • For specific and infrequent waste disposal needs there is now a huge range of services that smaller organisations can tap into, including mobile phones, fluorescent tubes, halogen lights, polystyrene, computers, white-goods, office furniture and more.
  • In multi storey office buildings cleaning contractors generally operate the waste and recycling system, and changes to regular collection, separation and disposal will have to be negotiated with them and possibly the building owner. NABERS offers a nationally recognised waste audit process

Planet Ark Business Recycling provides a comprehensive set of ways to boost recycling at work - there are more tools like this below in 'related resources' plus the CitySwitch page Trends, Tools and Tips for Waste Management.



Related Resources

Waste signage for your workplace

Here's a suite of signage to help your workplace put materials in the correct bin.

Top tips for working paper free

Hear from one City of Sydney green champion about how she approached the challenge of going paper-free in the office including useful apps and other resources.

E-Waste recycling

Storage King are working with MobileMuster and ECOACTIV Product Recovery Programs to help collect and recycle unwanted electronics, computer equipment and mobile phones. Businesses can buy an e-waste recycling box for $3.50 from Storage King and return it for recycling or contact them for collection of larger quantities.

Best practice waste & recycling contracts for business

Get a best practice waste and recycling contract underway with the help of this Sustainability Victoria guide. This resource has been created to help small to medium sized businesses navigate the waste contract procurement process and to get the most efficient and cost effective service.

Recycling Week

Recycling Week happens in November, promoted by Planet Ark, and enables positive recycling actions by councils, schools, workplaces and individuals. See how to get involved.

Saving water

Making water savings improves green office performance and can mean energy savings as well.


Lamp recycling can help reduce the amount of mercury being sent to landfill. FluoroCycle is a voluntary product stewardship scheme that seeks to increase the national recycling rate of waste mercury-containing lamps.

USA Sustainable Procurement Policies

A collection of ten real Sustainable Procurement Policies from USA state administrations, complied by California's Buy Recycled program. 

Zero Waste SA

Zero Waste SA is encouraging South Australian business and industries to adopt sustainable practices. Their Program Advisers partner with leading environmental consultancies to cover waste, water, energy and carbon materials, plant and equipment. Organisations can apply for funding to access various specialist services.


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