Zero Waste in Office: Reduce and Reuse BEFORE Recycling

March 6, 20191:12 pm1084 views

Zero waste aims to send nothing to a landfill. We reduce what we need, reuse as much as we can, send little to be recycled, and compost what we cannot”

Going Zero Waste

The World noted that East Asia is producing waste faster than any other region in the world. There are eight million tons of plastic bumped in the ocean each year which equals to one truck of garbage per minute. China, Indonesia, Philippines, and Vietnam are Asian countries producing the biggest plastic waste. Globally, marine ecosystems suffer an estimated US$13 billion a year in damages caused by plastic waste. APEC estimates the costs to tourism, fishing, and shipping industries to be US$1.3 billion for the region. In order to help the earth and save our environment, it is important to implement the three principles of zero waste, reduce, reuse, and recycle.

Larry Chalfan, one of Zero Waste Alliance, said, “At this time zero waste is more of a journey than something that can be achieved. A lot can be done, and many organizations make the goal ‘zero waste to landfill’ and then further define it to mean over 90 percent of waste being diverted into reuse or recycling.” Large corporations like WalMart and AAMCO have also declared a zero waste goal. So why not adopt it in your office, too?

Not only making the earth a better place to live, by participating and creating a zero waste office, you can also contribute to a better economy, create jobs, and address issues of climate change and environmental justice. According to Resource Recycling, there are four specific reasons why you should go “zero waste”:

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Reason 1 China’s National Sword has shown the need to improve the quality of material recovered through recycling and the importance of increasing the opportunity to market and process those materials domestically.

Reason 2 Zero waste is one of the fastest, cheapest, and most effective strategies to address climate change and environment. Decreasing waste disposed in landfills and incinerators will reduce greenhouse gases the equivalent to closing one-fifth of U.S. coal-fired power plants and will stabilized climate by 2050.

Reason 3 You can create good, safe jobs through recycling, composting, reuse and repair. Tellus Institute reported that being a zero waste participant means the world can achieve municipal solid waste (MSW) and construction and demolition debris (C&D) by 2030 which will result in 2.3 million total jobs. Also, nearly 1.5 million new jobs in manufacturing, collection, and other careers can be created.

Reason 4 Zero waste helps address environmental racism. By reducing the need to continue “take, make, waste” paradigm and by using discards as feedstock for new products, you can reduce the need for extraction and disposal. Reusing and repairing can also keep products in use for longer, as well as reducing the needs to consumption. Thus, it is creating more conducive lifestyle for communities that are most impacted and often end up being the most under-resourced.

Sandile Shabangu, founder of startup Mzansi Ventures and Startup Mzansi Foundation, is one of successful “startup guy” that has already adapt zero waste in his office lifestyle. He wrote in his LinkedIn post, “In my quest for saving costs on buying furniture for the new space, I quickly got hit by the idea of using recycled material including pallets, tyres and other materials to create fresh and creative furniture. I then assembled a team so as to translate the vision into action while creating employment opportunity for skilled young men ekasi. I must say that the first attempt really hit home.”

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Image Credit: Sandile Shabangu

Other than that, there are many things you can adapt to create zero disposal in office. For example, by keeping the Zero Waste Pyramid principals (refuse, reduce, reuse, repurpose, recycle, and rot). The other actions are to apply the principals in your office. Here are ways to do it as proposed by BuymeOnce.


Although paper is recyclable, consuming less paper is better. To do that, you can conduct these tricks to cut down the amount of paper use:

  • Buy recycled paper and envelopes from sustainable resources, check to ensure it does not come in plastic, and consider to buy from local.
  • Unsubscribe to any postal mailings and sign up for emails instead. Use the power of online and internet.
  • Email documents and invoices instead of printing them, and only accept paper receipts when you need.
  • Use scrap bits of paper for notes/to-do lists. If possible, reuse old envelopes or packaging.
  • Buy link-on rather than stick-on stamps. Stick-on stamps come with plastic lined paper backing which adds to waste production and can be difficult to recycle.
Writing Instruments

When you need to write, consider buying pen that lasts for life. For example, fisher pens are well made, are a good investment, and will last for longer. Fountain pens with refills or ink bottles are longer lasting and more eco-friendly. Also, if possible, avoid the use of highlighters as they mostly destined for landfill. You can try highlighter pencils or colouring pencils, instead. There are also pencils that are so eco-friendly called Sprout’s plantable pencils.

Desktop supplies

You might want to consider some of these desktop supply replacements.

  • Stapleless staplers remove the need for staples and reduce waste. You might find one in your local market.
  • Reuse paper clips that you receive to save getting new ones.
  • Use recycled hole punch.  
  • For sellotape, consider using paper tapes for packaging which are recyclable. There are also adhesive paper tape or water-activated gummed paper tape for another option. Masking tape is a better one for an emergency alternative.
  • Use external hard drives and memory sticks rather than CDs.
  • Reuse old folders and avoid getting plastic ones. If you want to buy one, you can buy recycled binders or recycled notebooks

Print when you really need to.  For the best option, you can print at library or internet cafes where the equipment is already presented for public use. If you want to buy new printer, buy one that last for many years. There is also recycled ink and recycled used ink cartridges. Additionally, try to print double-sided and in black and white draft mode, unless it is an important document.

Note: There is a font that has been designed to use on average 33 percent less ink and is free to download, Ryman Eco font.

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