We’ve come a long way when it comes to putting into practice our concern for the environment. But there are always more challenges to overcome.
Not so long ago, every desk in the office had a so-called wastepaper basket sitting under it. From takeaway food containers and apple cores through to used printouts: everything and anything was tossed into this little bin.
We’ve come a long way in a short time. We’re aware of environmental issues, and most people are keen to reduce their use of natural resources.
It’s the modern three-bin system – general waste, paper waste and co-mingled recyclables – with clear labelling and a central location (the kitchen, maybe, or the photocopier room) that has really brought offices up to date with recycling.
In Australia, paper remains one of the number-one workplace recyclables. Although twenty years ago many people expected the digital economy to lead to the paperless office, we still seem to end up with reams of the stuff.
Paper can be pulped and made into more (although lower grade) paper about seven times before its fibres become too short, and virgin materials need to be added into the process.
Making new paper from scratch uses more energy than recycling paper into a new paper material. So recycling is definitely worthwhile. And the fact that it’s cheaper to have recyclables collected than to have general waste disposed of means there’s a win for everyone.
Another form of office recycling that is becoming more common is e-waste. Keyboards and monitors that no longer work, even defunct batteries – most are at least partly recyclable. Not only is e-waste environmentally destructive in landfill, but the specialist companies that pick it up make money from selling some of the recyclable materials. Just as with paper, that reduces collection costs.