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Author

Milgro

Date

3 June 2024

Reading time

5 minutes

Zero Waste Week 2024: Encourage Zero Waste behavior

Describing a zero waste ambition and including it in policy is a great step that companies are taking to become more sustainable. When converting policy into action, it often proves difficult to achieve a positive behavioral change internally. How do you encourage employees to change their behavior? How do you allow purchasing to make different choices and how do you ensure that the facility becomes an ambassador of the zero waste vision? In this blog you can read more about encouraging Zero Waste behavior. 

Remove confusion surrounding waste separation

One of the reasons why accurate waste separation fails is because there is a lot of variation in the way waste is separated in the Netherlands. Dutch municipalities have their own approach, from not separating at the source and using post-separation at the waste recipient, to collecting all regular different separated flows. But also a PD collection vs. a PMD collection leaves the waste disposer in doubt about what to do. While metals are given a place in one collection (PMD), only PD ensures that tin and other metals, such as tin and aluminum foil, must be collected with residual waste. This leads to confusion and often to counterproductive behavior because people think it will end up in a pile. 

In Belgium, the regulations are much clearer. Whether you are a company or collect waste as a household, both are organized in the same way. Vlarema even prescribes 24 different waste flows in which waste must be separated. This ultimately ensures better waste separation percentages, less residual waste, but also less pollution in the streams. 

The lesson from this is that it is extra important to make it as easy as possible for colleagues and to set up a clear collection structure with clear separation instructions.

Adjust waste structure 

Setting up a consistent collection structure with clear means of communication is important in achieving a zero waste office. Employees must immediately see where flows need to be collected and there are a number of behavioral influencing factors that help with a well-designed system. It should be simple, the collection means that is used most often (to least often) should be on the left (to the right).

This year we as Milgro are making a change to this collection. Because we believe that you should not provide a solution for a stream that you do not want, we will remove the residual waste bins in our office starting this Zero Waste Week. This means we are truly going completely zero waste and we will ensure optimal separation of residual flows.

Residual waste display case

We are aware that not all products can yet be accommodated as a separate stream. We put those products in the display case and in the canteen. The aim is to start a discussion among ourselves about residual waste products. Are there alternatives? How could we have prevented this? These are the conversations we hope to have with our employees regarding residual waste products. And these products also get a place on the Waste500.

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Waste separation training

Good waste separation starts with providing information. An interactive training is ideal for providing clarity regarding correct separation. At Milgro we pay attention to this and seek interaction. For example, we offer examples of products that are frequently released and we pay attention to more challenging products.

Milgro offers an onboarding program for new employees, using e-learning. Part of these e-learning courses is waste separation training in the office. We thereby introduce new employees to the desired situation regarding waste separation. Preventing waste flows, in short, making other choices that ensure a reduction of waste flows, is also an important part of these training courses. 

Increasing clarity about how to separate information on products

A striking and positive change is the separation instructions on the products themselves. For example, you will increasingly find disposal instructions on the packaging film of a product, but also on cardboard packaging, for example. This helps consumers reduce residual waste. 

In a production environment, where waste flows are often very predictable, it can be similarly useful to hang photos of the materials that are allowed in a separated waste flow above the collection means. Or even easier: a notice board. As a company, you can place concrete separation instructions around the collection resources.

Wastelabs and Zero Waste Workshops

As an organization, would you also like to work on zero waste or improve waste separation? Milgro offers waste labs and zero waste workshops for this purpose. Employees gain extensive insight into the optimization opportunities at a company regarding waste. See below an impression of the waste lab that we organized for our relationship HTM:

Importance of policy and an enthusiastic facilities team

A successful rollout of a zero waste ambition starts with formulating a sustainable policy regarding waste and its prevention. At Milgro, there has been a change in purchasing policy following last year's zero waste challenge. We have based our entire purchasing policy on less waste based on a number of key questions. Can we buy less? Can a sustainable, fair trade and/or circular product be chosen? Is there a circular solution for the end of life of this product? Finally, can we use what we already have more efficiently?

There has also been a change in the policy surrounding the waste process. This policy describes how we deal with waste separation and how we strive for waste prevention. In addition to Milgro adhering to the separation obligation for companies, laid down in LAP3, we go one step further with the composting of our organic waste and we offer employees tools to organize proper separation. But the importance of involving the facilities team is also important. Especially when initiating a change. 

Facility is responsible for offering an ideal workplace that is clean and tidy and complies with ARBO legislation. Whether you use a cleaning organization or not. Involving facility staff in drawing up or changing a waste policy is important. Facility can ensure that the policy is properly implemented and can make any adjustments to the design to achieve set objectives regarding waste reduction. 

Zero Waste and Purchasing

To implement zero waste in all facets of a company, there is actually only 1 rule. When a company purchases products for the office or in the production process, one must think about the end-of-life phase. When the answer to the question, in which waste bin will this product or raw material ultimately end up? And the answer to this question is: residual waste. Then consider an alternative. Only then can we break the linear circle and achieve a circular economy. Of course, this is easier said than done, for all situations. But remember that asking the question and looking for an alternative ensures that the first steps towards a circular economy are taken. Rome wasn't built in a day either. 

Culture

The challenge surrounding Zero Waste is that many departments and people are secretly involved. So it starts with purchasing and facility, cleaning and all employees must separate properly. On top of that, being zero waste is not a priority for anyone, it is a shared responsibility. Zero waste is really a cultural issue. When a company wants to be economical with the natural capital on which the company depends for sustainable profitability; then, in principle, care must be taken in all choices.

Conclusion 

To achieve a zero waste ambition, informing and training employees on behavior is part of making the ambition successful. In addition, a consistent collection structure with clear communication tools helps to ensure accurate waste separation. Policy, but also the facilities department, ensure that your zero waste ambition does not end up in oblivion. But also providing internal insight into the achieved objectives ensures that zero waste remains part of the daily processes. 

Tips or ideas?

Have you also included a zero waste policy in your purchasing or do you have tips or ideas for preventing waste flows? Let us know! We would like to hear what you are doing, for example to reduce food waste or avoid packaging waste. We will take your suggestions into account in our next blogs, in which we will discuss solutions for various waste streams.