Offices may typically produce less waste than other sectors (e.g. domestic/manufacturing), but waste production has a dramatic environmental impact, and public administration should play an exemplary role. Waste generated in public administration offices typically includes paper, packaging material, consumables, electric and electronic equipment, hazardous waste such as toner, pollutants, heavy metals, batteries, flame retardants, etc.…
Management and reduction of waste production in public administration buildings can be applied to most office activities and should be implemented according to specific local conditions, such as the types of waste, local recycling services, legislation and costs.
Effective waste management is achieved through a comprehensive approach that involves top management, building managers, contractors and building occupants and thourgh the implementation of actions following the so-called 'waste hierarchy' where waste should first be prevented, followed by reuse (with no/minimal processing), recycling (reuse of the material after procesing) and then energy recovery, with disposal to landfill as a lst resort.
Consistent with this approach, the following main courses of action are essential:
- Prevention & reuse. Includes the avoidance of usage of paper, implementing paperless procedures, archives and the like; usage of durable equipment and consumables; keeping an inventory of office equipment and furniture, which will allow reuse of available items before considering new purchases; leasing rather than purchasing equipment; implementing green procurement policies; supporting the use of reusable items like cups instead of single-use plastic items; and providing water fountains instead of plastic bottles. See also Minimising consumption of paper and consumables for specific actions regarding this topic.
- Segregation. It’s essential to increase recycling rates. A good segregation system requires easy access to recycling bins for most common waste types, appropriate location and identification of the bins (design and color-coded signage for waste bins play a critical role) and training on the importance of waste segregation for staff.
- Monitoring and reducing residual waste. Includes a regular recording of the disposal routes, accounting for the quantities of waste generated by type and checking the progress toward targets. Targets can be set based on available benchmarks and local conditions, like the size of the facility, whether the facility includes a canteen or not, etc.…
By implementing these actions and strategies, the public administration will achieve considerable savings of virgin resources, the reduction of processing energy and savings of lifecycle energy and carbon involved in the production and transportation of products. An effective waste management strategy also enables significant reductions in purchases, as in the case of disposable cups, plastic bottles and the like.
For management of waste produced by office canteens and coffee bars, see also Minimising the environmental impact of canteens and coffee bars.