The Power of Less bins

How much are you paying for fresh air?

Most people now recycle at home, but feel frustrated at the lack of opportunity for recycling at work. It’s easy to understand why people are looking for more commercial waste recycling opportunities. In the UK, organisations pay for three things when waste is sent to landfill: 

  • the price of the bin lift (including the transport);
  • a cost per tonne for landfill; 
  • and a landfill tax (which by itself is in excess of £80 per tonne).

The frustrating part – and there are many frustrations when waste goes to landfill – is that organisations often pay an all-in price that assumes a bin is full when it’s picked up. This means that unless bins are actually full of waste, organisations pay for the ‘removal’ of fresh air.

You do not have to be particularly cynical to realise that, more often than not, it is in a waste management company’s interest to drive around picking up half-empty bins. They’ll profit from lifting empty bins, and from landfill space that’s not being used. That’s not to say that this is some big conspiracy by waste management companies – it’s just not in their interest to address the problem of half-empty waste bins.

What can you do about your half-empty bins?

Organisations need to take control of their waste. Of course, the more you recycle, the less exposed to this problem you’ll be. But where you have waste bins, at least make sure that they are full at the time of collection. And if they aren’t, you need to establish why.

  • Are your bins too big?
  • Are there too many of them?
  • Are they collected too frequently?

This is what we call ‘bin rationalisation’. When we go through bin rationalisation with our customers, it’s not unusual for us to find that that they’re operating between 30% and 50% extra capacity – and extra cost.

Fresh air and cardboard are two of the usual suspects found in organisations’ waste bins. Your bins might look like they’re overflowing, but if 75% of a bin is taken up with recyclable cardboard, it’s really only a quarter full. And even in organisations that recycle thousands of tonnes of cardboard and generate revenue from their recycling, I am amazed at how much cardboard is still discarded into waste bins.

Beyond the bin

Bin rationalisation provides more than just a reduced cost of waste management. No one wants their business waste disposal to contain valuable materials that will only be burnt or sent to landfill. We identify ways that your recyclables can provide a new revenue stream for your business by separating them out from your other waste.

Rationalised bins will provide wins throughout your supply cycle. Your waste management costs less, and fewer collections mean fewer vehicle journeys and reduced emissions. We create new value streams by recycling materials instead of destroying them. The whole process of business waste management becomes more efficient and resource-friendly. So we are looking at doing more with less – less waste, more recycling.

And the Power of Less bins isn’t just about reducing paid-for bin capacity. It’s a whole ethos of less waste, which changes the way businesses think about waste management and recycling.

Waste not, want not

At DS Smith, we focus on designing out waste before it hits the bin. At the other end of the spectrum, we seek to make people aware of what they’re throwing away, so that they can reduce waste by changing their business processes. Customers’ bins are often full of polystyrene, which is difficult to recycle because it’s bulky and light, so transport logistics are expensive. Wouldn’t it make sense to think about replacing polystyrene with something easier to recycle?

Organisations need to take waste management back through the waste hierarchy, and reduce it at source. Think about reusing things before discarding them. When they can no longer be used, can they be recycled? Think about what is being bought into your business supply cycle before you make a purchase or design a process, and at the other end of the cycle, you’ll have less waste, less bins, and more recycling.

From national retailer to corner shop, from huge production plant to small-scale factory, every business has an opportunity to rethink their recycling and waste management strategy and realise the twin goals of better financial and environmental performance. Less cost, less waste, less complexity – that’s the Power of Less Bins.

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