• Teja Hudson

Waste Hierarchy: Packaging

Updated: Aug 11, 2019

Every week for Plastic-Free July we're running a campaign to highlight ways to work through a particular type of workplace waste.

In Week 2 we used the Waste Hierarchy Pyramid (left) to evaluate Packaging in the workplace and identify options for change that you might be able to implement in your business. Here's how the week went:


PACKAGING in your workplace means everything that comes into the business, everything you use/create in the business, and everything you send out.

How many of these things are wrapped in single use packaging of any kind? How much of that packaging is plastic? What could you change?


Tuesday means we focus on REFUSING Packaging wherever we can...so what can you stop? What can you do without? Where in your workplace can you get around using packaging at all?


REDUCING Packaging means finding ways to use less, which often means becoming more efficient (and saving money in the process!).

Pay particular attention to your consumables and what they arrive in - quantities tend to build up quickly here, and packaging can often be reduced more easily than you think. Don't be afraid to chat to your suppliers and manufacturers!

Also look at the postage and packaging of anything you might send anywhere else, as this area often gets overlooked.

Did you know that you can use paper tape on parcels and boxes instead of plastic packing tape? :)


Thursday means looking at REUSE and REPURPOSING of all the packaging in our workplace.

Finding another way to use something before it's destroyed is better for the planet than recycling because it takes less energy and fewer resources to give it another life, which is why it's higher on the Waste Hierarchy Pyramid.

A Circular Economy means we need to start designing with Reuse in mind, especially when it comes to packaging, and manufacturers need to take responsibility for all the materials they're putting out into the world. We also need to find ways to move materials on to someone who will be able to use them or turn them into something useful!

Where might this work in your business?


The final step on our pyramid (after all earlier options are exhausted) is to RECYCLE/ROT and return the resources to raw materials again so that they can start a new cycle as something else.

This week we're applying that to Plastic Packaging, so it's time to check out the contents of your bins to make sure valuable resources aren't slipping into landfill by mistake.

Does everyone in your workplace know how to separate their packaging properly? Is there adequate signage on bins? Are you rewarding good behaviour? Are you working with your waste contractors to improve your recycling rates together?

What are the improvements you've found easist to make in this area?


This is just one example of how to work through a problem using the Waste Hierarchy Pyramid, and use each stage to question what you're doing now and how you might approach your consumption differently. The idea is to work through the levels in order but for all of them to be working together at the same time to prevent and minimise your waste.

But remember, you don't have to tackle everything at once! It's ok to take it in stages, to focus on your quick-wins first and then move towards deeper change in the medium-long term. Sustainability is a process, and starting imperfectly is much better than never starting at all! We also recognise that there are some solutions that might never work for your workplace at all, for reasons of security or hygiene or the speed of work. Ask yourself if you're just resisting inconvenience or if there is a genuine reason you can't address that waste stream that is built into your business model. If that's the case then it's ok to leave it until later to tackle, or to seek outside help or create a long term project to seek a bigger solution.

For today, do what you can :)

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