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Waste management is an important part of embracing the circular economy.

Common-Sense Approaches for Sustainable Waste Management

April 17, 2023
Facilities managers and management companies are the first line of defense when it comes to implementing sustainable waste management practices.

Sustainability is becoming a major source of concern for everyone. Whether sustainable practices and circular economies get introduced for practical or political purposes, the facility manager or management company can go a long way in furthering those goals by investigating needs and addressing them using common sense.

Here are a few ways facility managers or management companies can incorporate circular economy best practices while preserving what makes a facility desirable.

Analyze Current Waste Management Processes

Every facility has areas that can be improved from the perspective of sustainability. With some facilities, it is as simple as educating tenants about sustainable practices or employing techniques that encourage sustainable behavior. Other facilities require a more structured approach.

Audit for Waste

The concept of a circular economy is still new to many businesses. In some industries, like construction or retail, it is known but still a very raw concept. How a facility gets managed is the first line of defense and the first and sometimes only source of motivation to adopt sustainable practices.

For example, if your building is older, renovating might be one way to increase sustainable practices while reducing overall waste. However, you will not know that until you map out your needs, deficiencies, strengths and areas you can improve. The only way to identify any of those is to audit your space as it currently exists.

Review standard operating procedures for waste and equipment use, equipment for inefficient use, or practices that are in place that can benefit from adopting a more sustainable and often sensible approach.

If your facilities use equipment that has highly regulated substances, like refrigerants, create an inventory of what is required to maintain certification or achieve levels of sustainability through maintenance, cycling or replacement. Document every need and devise a plan for adopting the solution.

Update Facilities for Sustainability

Along with the audit, push your management to implement sustainable practices where it makes sense. Remember that you are not changing the world but pushing your facility toward a more sustainable position. That might mean prioritizing what needs to change and the timeframe it can change.

Update equipment or processes when needed or when either has run its course for usefulness. That might mean replacing a piece of equipment with something more energy efficient or introducing a new way of handling waste, but imposing it “from on high” with no warning rarely will work unless the benefits are clear.

Eco-Friendly Products and Services

Often, adopting a sustainable approach begins with small changes. One suggestion is swapping out chemical cleaners that are not sustainable or heavy polluters with something more sustainable and better for the environment. Another is introducing sustainable products or services in areas like food delivery or recycling of trash.

When making a change, outline how it will help the customer (your tenants or business partners) and help the environment. Keep in mind that change can be upsetting to some people, so do not make sweeping changes overnight. Plan them and execute them with precision.

Ambassador for Change

Change works when the benefits to a person or organization are made obvious. That takes work, and it requires the change agents to put in the work needed to make those benefits clear. Merely imposing a new process or mandating new equipment will do nothing to build support in most cases. Take the time to be an ambassador for change.

If your changes raise issues, do not brush them off. Respectfully address them and, if needed, alter your plans or actions. For example, if introducing recycling practices causes an uproar because trash disposal suddenly becomes a bottleneck, figure out how to reduce or eliminate the delays.

The more time you spend explaining the benefits of an action or decision, the more support you can build until you have the occupants of a facility fully on board. During that process, if alterations are needed, embrace them and work to please those affected without harming the core mission of the change.

Upkeep and Maintenance

Another way facility managers can implement change is in their maintenance and upkeep practices. If equipment is inefficient and wasteful, replace or update it. Better-maintained facilities will yield circular economy advantages by reducing waste and pollution while increasing the efficiency of machines, equipment and processes.

If, for example, your HVAC is leaky and dirty, update, clean or replace it where possible. Every action taken to improve the performance of equipment, at the very least, makes it run more efficiently and, thus, saves energy.

Push Sustainable Practices

Sustainable practices go beyond sticking a recycling bin in the office lobby and calling it sustainable. Work where possible to purchase recycled and sustainable products. Utilize sustainable services and update the facility with sustainable equipment where possible. The facility manager has a bird’s eye view of what is needed and possible.

For instance, when possible, recycle or repurpose old equipment. Instead of buying all new desks, use desks that have been used and are no longer needed by the business unit to help satisfy the needs of another business unit. When possible, fix equipment versus discarding it and buying all new equipment.

One change might not make much of a difference company-wide, however, that one practice can build something significant.

Work With Green

Working with companies that use sustainable products or offer sustainable practices can also move a facility towards a circular economic position. Use office cleaners that use sustainable, green products. Purchase equipment with high energy ratings. The more you focus on working with green products, services, and companies, the more you “green up” your facility.

It may seem difficult at first, but creating more sustainable practices in the workplace is a guaranteed way to reduce your carbon footprint. It also improves office productivity and can even create a more welcoming environment for your staff.

Final Thoughts

Facility managers are the first line of defense when identifying ways to introduce circular economy concepts. Even simple things such as maintaining equipment to reduce wasting energy make a huge difference. The key is to identify the need, build support for it and implement it sensibly.

About the Author

Nicolle Portilla

Nicolle Portilla is RTS’s Marketing Manager and has been a valued member of the team since July 2018. She is responsible for content creation on all platforms, leveraging creative software, industry trends and research, and social media strategy to build upon the company’s online presence.

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