Calling all cleaners – help improve food waste segregation!


Time and again, good intentions fail at the point of disposal when it comes to waste segregation. Cleaners working in offices, hospitals and other facilities can help drive change – and it could benefit their business too, says Cromwell Polythene managing director James Lee in his latest blog for ECJ.

You don’t need to look too far to read a headline about our food waste crisis, and the struggle to improve or even just maintain wider recycling rates. We all know that food waste can be collected and effectively handled and disposed of through composting and anaerobic digestion, and there are a myriad of potential uses for other ‘waste’ materials – from paper and glass to nappies and sanitary waste – yet so much still needlessly ends up in polluting landfill.

Figures from the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) reveal that food waste in the UK rose 4.4 per cent between 2012 and 2015. While most of this waste is generated from households, 30% comes from away-from-home settings like the hospitality industry, retail, manufacturing and more – all facilities which regularly employ cleaners.

Why am I making this point? Because 60 per cent of all food waste is avoidable, and I think that cleaning businesses which take the initiative could be instrumental in helping reduce this waste, while improving their own business relationships.

The same goes for improving rates of general waste segregation. In healthcare settings, for instance, segregation onsite is vital to ensure that waste is stored, transported and ultimately disposed of in the correct manner to maintain compliance with clinical waste regulation. The fact is that poor segregation will lead to increased costs of disposal for many facilities, and may even result in prosecution if the waste is ‘mixed’ and is deemed no longer suitable for the waste treatment or disposal option that has been selected.

Going above and beyond

Many cleaners might ask the question, “Isn’t all this outside my remit though?” After all, cleaners ‘just’ remove and replace the bin liners as part of their overall cleaning schedule.

I argue that by promoting waste segregation at a facility they service, cleaning companies can bring both environmental and financial benefits to their clients. Most companies, even small- to medium-sized operations, have sustainability goals, and if as their cleaning contractor you demonstrate a similar commitment, this can only serve to help your business relationship too.

Cleaning supervisors and managers should talk to their clients about introducing waste segregation policies in a facility, starting with food waste. If such a policy is already in place, cleaning operatives on the front line should ensure there are enough bins, that they are in the right place, that they are clearly marked, and contain the correct bin liner for the waste they are intended to contain.

And, just as any responsible cleaner would report a leaking tap to their client, misuse of segregation bins should also be highlighted as a waste of time, effort and resources.

There are plenty of reputable organisations that can help a facility put in place waste reduction strategies, including segregated waste collection services, and help with awareness-raising campaigns in facilities. A good start for cleaners to recommend to their clients is the WRAP food waste guide for businesses:

Cleaners and their clients could even work together on waste segregation targets as part of a zero waste-to-landfill goal. This type of partnership approach to contract cleaning can help both parties reach sustainability goals, and boosts the reputational status of the contract cleaner as a champion of best practice. Become the partner of choice for your clients by taking the initiative.

Article by James Lee


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