Can HR lead an eco-conscious workforce?

Experts share seven ways to reduce plastic and motivate eco-warriors in the workplace

Can HR lead an eco-conscious workforce?

There are lots of different ways individuals can reduce plastic waste, but to have an even greater impact, workforce managers can get everyone working towards the same goal.

Experts at Safestore, a self-storage solutions provider, spoke with HRD to share their top seven ways in which businesses can reduce their plastic.

1. Encourage eco-habits in the workplace
Team managers should encourage staff to bring reusable water bottles, and wrap sandwiches in recyclable material or reusable containers rather than cling film.

Consider offering incentives such as entry into a monthly prize draw to anyone who posts photos of their efforts on the company’s social media site or intranet.

2. Ask suppliers to use plastic-free packaging
Think about what your workplace regularly purchases. Stationery, for example, can be heavily packaged and many items such as rulers and ballpoints are made mainly of plastic.

Can you use alternative products that contain less plastic or use less packaging? If you have any say over procurement in your company, find out from your regular suppliers what they can offer by way of alternatives to plastic packaging. If your regular supplier can’t or won’t provide plastic-free alternatives, consider alternative suppliers and make it clear why you’re doing so.

READ MORE: 11 ways to improve sustainability

3. Provide fresh water filling stations
Staff need fresh drinking water throughout the day to remain productive. To encourage them to use fewer single-use plastics such as water bottles, invest in water coolers in your workplace and ask that staff bring reusable bottles from home to fill up as and when needed.

4. Audit your communal kitchen
Clear out staff room cupboards. How many single-use plastics are there? Bin liners, straws, plastic bags, plastic cutlery – it can be surprising to see just how much plastic there is already in your workplace.

Many local authorities offer centralised soft plastic recycling points: consider rounding up the single-use plastics in your kitchen and arranging for a volunteer to take them to be recycled. Replace them with ceramic crockery, steel cutlery and compostable bin liners (or you could line your bin with newspapers instead).

5. Use positive signage
It’s easy for staff and customers to forget to bring their own bags or to pop their rubbish in the correct recycling receptacle. Consider downloading and printing off some posters to create visible signage reminding others to do their bit to help the environment and making it easier for them to recycle.

6. Upgrade your cuppas
Switch to plastic-free tea bags and ceramic mugs in your kitchen to make your tea and coffee breaks more eco-friendly. For an even greater impact, swap your plastic milk cartons for glass milk bottles or make up milk from tinned, dried milk powder.

7. Recycle more efficiently
Many workplaces have separate recycling bins for paper waste, but few have similar receptacles for plastic waste. Often this is because it’s unclear what the local authority will or will not recycle (you could consider prompting your local authority to do more to recycle plastics by writing to your councillors). Sometimes, it’s because recycling companies charge considerable amounts to collect recyclables.

If your local authority accepts plastic recycling at your local recycling unit, see whether you can arrange a rota for volunteers to take a bag of plastics to be recycled every week or fortnight.


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