3 strategies for a zero waste office
By Early Metrics Team - 29 July 2022
The recent Covid-19 crisis, the latest IPCC report and the AGEC law in France have all contributed to consumers’ environmental awareness. Following the pandemic, 73% of consumers say they want to consume more responsibly by buying climate-friendly products. While consumers are becoming more conscious of their impact at home, it is also important to tackle the environmental effects of our workplaces. This brings us to the emergence of zero waste strategies in company offices.
According to Ademe, each office worker produces on average between 120 and 140 kilos of waste per year in the workplace. Furthermore, 83% of employees say that waste management in their office is not optimal. This is also the case in the UK, where 84% of employees say their company is not doing enough to tackle climate change. In this article, we present three types of solutions offered by startups to help companies with their zero waste strategy.
Eco-friendly office supplies and furniture
One of the major trends in recent years has been to create eco-friendly workplaces. In France, 250,000 tonnes of office furniture are thrown away every year. This figure is even more worrying in other countries such as the United States, where 8,500,000 tonnes of office furniture was wasted each year as of 2017. To combat this waste, some startups such as Bluedigo, Fairspace or Scop3 promote the use of “Made in France” and second-hand office furniture.
The second-hand furniture offered by Bluedigo is collected when companies move to new offices, and the new furniture comes from circular economy companies offering items made from recycled materials. These solutions allow companies to reduce waste but also save on furnishing costs. Reused office furniture is on average 40% to 50% cheaper than new furniture. Many of the startups in this sector recover or repair a company’s furniture upon request. Thanks to this, companies can considerably reduce the waste associated with the furnishing of their offices.
Reuse and recycling at lunch
Lunchtime is certainly the time when employees consume the most packaging. This phenomenon has namely been driven by the rise of take out food. Each year, these meals generate around 183,000 tonnes of packaging in France. Furthermore, a study has shown that 44% of the plastic that pollutes our oceans comes from takeaway meals. To adopt a zero waste strategy, companies need to address this issue.
Some startups like Greengo, BoxEaty and Pyxo, which recently raised €7 million, have taken on the task of modernising the deposit system, which had been mostly forgotten until recently. To do so, GreenGo installs collectors in company canteens, restaurants and supermarkets where customers can return their food container. Essentially, the user chooses a meal that’s in a container they will ultimately return. This container will be traced via a QR code or RFID chip. The consumer pays a deposit for this container, which is included in the price of their meal. Once the meal has been consumed, the consumer drops the container in the GreenGo collector of their choice. Their deposit is then immediately reimbursed via the startup’s mobile app or via a voucher.
Sustainable mobility is very often taken into account in the implementation of a company’s zero waste strategy. According to INSEE, in 2017, 74% of working people were still using a car to get to work. This figure was 60% for trips of less than 5km. However, the Covid-19 crisis and the various transportation strikes in France have brought cycling back into fashion. According to a study by Union Sport et Cycle, 1 in 5 French people in 2019 used a bicycle for their work commute. In 2021, the bicycle industry experienced a real boom with a 25% increase in the sector’s turnover, exceeding €3 billion. This trend was not exclusive to France. Indeed, in 2020 the European Union saw bicycle sales increase by 20%.
Startups have taken the hint: there is an emergence of company bicycle offers from startups such as Zenride, Beetogreen, Bike2m, Tutut or Azfalte. In addition, the introduction of the sustainable mobility package in France is encouraging companies to offer alternative solutions for their employees’ commute. They can thus promote their wellbeing and implement a strong CSR approach.
Company bicycles more or less follow the same logic as company vehicles. The company bike is given to an employee who uses it as they please. The company finances part of the rental (from 50% to 100%). The employee can buy it back for a small residual value after a few years. In France, bicycle rentals allow the company to benefit from a 25% tax reduction. Overall, company bikes are a solution that is ecological, economical and motivating for employees.
Raising employee awareness is key
In addition to implementing these types of solutions, it is essential to ensure employees are aware of good practices. This can be done through regular and friendly internal communication. In particular, companies can put up signs to remind people of good habits to have. They can also set up systems to measure and monitor the progress of zero waste policies. Without these efforts to raise awareness and monitor progress, a promising zero waste strategy could quickly fall into oblivion.