How to Start Recycling Plastic Waste at the Workplace
The Ministry of the Environment in Finland realised the problem with plastic waste and was among the first WWF Green Offices to begin recycling plastic. What does it require from the office to start collecting plastic waste?
“When we realised that plastic waste was not yet collected at our office, we just had to act. Continuous news of the harmful impacts of plastic made it a topical issue,” says Aino Pietarinen, Senior Officer at the Ministry of the Environment .
Previously, plastic waste generated at the Ministry of the Environment office, such as empty yoghurt containers, food packaging and plastic bags, ended up incinerated with mixed waste. Now, it continuous its life in the form of recycled plastic. The content of the office collection containers is transported to Fortum’s plastic plan in Riihimäki, where the different types of plastic are sorted, washed and processed into recycled plastic.
“Plastic is no good if incinerated. Without a doubt, it had to be recycled,” Pietarinen says.
The biggest benefit of recycling plastic is that it allows decreasing the production of virgin plastic, which consumes oil and lots of energy. The carbon footprint of recycled plastic is up to 85% lower than that of virgin plastic.
The Most Ecological Ministry
The Ministry of the Environment has been a member of the WWF Green Office network since 2011. The Ministry has a designated team to implement the Green Office actions in its day-to-day operations.
“Green Office has been very important to the Ministry of the Environment, as it has provided us with encouragement, support and advice. It has laid down the foundation for being an ecological ministry and has concretely promoted our environmental activities,” says Pietarinen, who is both the Green Office contact person and the chair of the ecology team.
Revising the waste collection system and sorting instructions and improving internal communications have been goals of the office’s environmental programme since the beginning of this year.
Steps to Plastic Collection at the Office
The Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority HSY, for example, has made plastic sorting possible in residential buildings in the Helsinki region since 2016. However, starting the collection at workplaces still requires a degree of initiative.
“To my mind, here the most challenging thing about the entire process was having to ask several parties if we can simply start to collect it. Finally, when the ecology team, that is our Green Office team, took to it, nobody had anything against it.”
“First, I checked that the provider of waste management collects plastic. We ordered the collection containers from the company responsible for cleaning and I agreed on the pick-up times. I made sure that all floors of the office had sufficient numbers of containers, as plastic packaging waste is the biggest fraction of all waste. Now, the containers are easy to reach and marked well. In addition, the cleaners were informed of the new waste collection type,” Pietarinen explains.
Before the collection of plastic waste at the office really got started, the recycling instructions had to be updated.
“It is important to communicate about the changes in a comprehensible way to the personnel. The revised recycling instructions are displayed on office walls and more extensively in a recycling booklet. They were visualised and laid out in co-operation with the communications department.”
Ask the Waste Management Provider About Plastic Waste Collection
In Finland, lots of work remain in correct recycling. According to the Finnish public service broadcasting company, Yle, the huge mountain of slag caused by the incineration of waste at the Ämmässuo landfill could be up to one-half smaller had all recyclable waste, paper, board, glass, metal and plastic, found their way to the right bin.
“In addition to getting people to understand the importance of sorting, another challenge is that not all waste management providers yet offer plastic waste collection to businesses and organisations,” says Mikko Kuiri, Partnership Manager at WWF Green Office.
In fact, Kuiri encourages Green Offices to increase the demand for it.
“Start by asking the provider of waste management at your workplace whether plastic waste could be collected. If it is not possible, I recommend that you remind the waste management company that their competitors already offer this option. This way, businesses and organisations could be drivers of change.”
Text: Emmi Karhiaho