Page last updated at 13:13 GMT, Tuesday, 8 April 2008 14:13 UK

How firms can best recycle plastics

Rubbish bins
There are many better alternatives to simply binning everything
There is growing awareness of the need to reduce plastic waste.

Martin Gibson, director of director of BuildDesk, a software and consultancy business that helps improve the energy efficiency of buildings, looks at how small firms can best meet the challenge.

Prior to joining BuildDesk he was director of Envirowise, the government-financed programme designed to help companies reduce their environmental costs.

Mike Smith, UK
We are a small manufacturing company.

We want to find out how best to recycle the following rather than going to landfill - bubble wrap, other plastic packaging, PVC cable cut offs etc.

Dr Martin Gibson, director of BuildDesk
The most important step you can take in reducing the amount of plastic packaging and bubble wrap going to landfill is to ensure you are using the absolute minimum in the first place.

Excess or bulky packaging not only increases raw material usage, but could be inflating your transport costs too by limiting the volume of goods that can be moved at any one time.

For example, manufacturer of peripherals and connectivity solutions for computer and consumer electronics, Belkin, worked with Envirowise last year to review the packaging on one of its network card products.

The alternative design they identified signified a 50% reduction in box volume, which will boost transport efficiency and cut material costs once in production.

The new design could save more than 18,000 kilograms of paper and 2,400 kilograms of plastics each year and reduce packaging-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 104 tonnes annually - with clear financial and environmental benefits.

Seek local advice

Once your initial design stage has been addressed, we would encourage you to review opportunities for the reuse and recycling of materials.

It is a good idea to speak to your local recycling centre or waste management contractor to find out what types of materials they can take. Useful questions might be:

  • What grade and type of material or waste do they accept?
  • Is there a minimum quantity required for collection?
  • Is baling of materials required before collection?
  • For listings of suitable recycling centres in your region try contacting your local authority or the Recycle More website, a link to which is included on the right.

    You should also check whether any waste materials you are producing are classed as hazardous waste, which would need to be handled separately.

    Visit the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs link on the right for more information on this.

    The final point to make is that recycling relies on effective segregation of materials and wastes.

    This can be achieved by setting up specific collection points or disposal bins around your site.

    Consider using colour coded bins for collecting different materials.

    This is an effective way to segregate waste and materials for recycling at source and can be applied to many businesses and industries.

    Once a systematic process has been established we would recommend that this forms part of a wider environmental management policy for your company, encompassing other issues such as water and energy usage and effective supply chain management.

    For further information on resource efficiency for manufacturers or how to reduce you packaging, visit the Envirowise website.

    To ask Dr Gibson a small business question, use the e-mail form below.

    Alternatively, you can email another member of our small business and entrepreneurship panel of experts by clicking on one of the links on the right.

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