The lighter side of waste

Being more environmentally aware is something that can benefit most companies and save money over the longer term. In this article, Tom Wagland, QA and environmental manager at Ricoh UK, discusses the procedures that need to be implemented to attain accreditation, as well as the ongoing work required maintaining compliance.

Having recently gained ISO 14001 accreditation for its waste management procedures, supplier of office automation equipment, electronic devices and photographic equipment, Ricoh UK is looking ahead and setting itself new environmental standards. Ricoh has proved that going green can benefit the company and save money.

ISO 14001

Pushing this further, Ricoh looked to implement ISO 14001 to help it effectively manage the environmental implications of its business processes. In the UK, the accreditation process began in December 2000. Following the initial audit, several issues had to be tackled, with the reduction of packaging waste being one of them. It was one of the company’s biggest overheads, costing £30,000 per annum and generating waste to landfill of 587 tonnes. A year later, volumes have decreased to 185 tonnes due to recycling initiatives, including shredding and baling at production plants. In addition, the waste management drive has enabled the company to use recycled paper for product packaging, leading to an annual saving of £6000 on re-packaging costs.

Activities were not solely focused on packaging waste, other initiatives were targeted with equally high success rates:

  • annual cardboard recycling increased by 100 per cent to 75 tonnes,

  • toner cartridge recycling rose by 396 per cent,

  • reduced power consumption.

Ultimately, none of these initiatives would have taken off, without board-level support. Ricoh has established a regular management review process to discuss environmental issues and any impact made by future changes to business needs or relevant legislation. The success of the policy lies in the combined efforts of the company’s staff and partners to ensure its effective implementation across all areas of the business. Environmental success is without doubt a team effort.

Good communication

Central to this team effort are effective communications initiatives. Ricoh regularly publishes a newsletter that promotes its latest initiatives and achievements to staff and partners. Internally, staff have been quick to respond to the waste reduction initiatives that were introduced, including desk recycling trays and on-site recycling points. Externally, customer promotions encourage the return of product packaging for recycling, an initiative which has yielded excellent results.

Environmental programmes are not about quick one-off changes, but are about an ongoing commitment to developing better operating procedures. Ricoh’s ongoing programme has also led to widespread industry acclaim from leading environmental organisations.

Looking ahead, Ricoh has numerous projects underway to ensure that its environmental efforts continue apace. ISO accreditation ensures that the company will not rest on its laurels, but will continue to strive to be at the head of the race to ensure that environmental action has a positive impact across all arms of its business as quickly as possible.

New compliance targets

With WEEE and 2006 as the company’s next target, the team has set itself new targets for compliance, including a renewed focus on end-of-life recycling. It is currently piloting a returns system, which will help it test the viability of an end-of-life machine return programme.

If this pilot is successful, the team will be looking to introduce a nationwide policy in the near future. It will be working with customers to ensure the return of old products and cartridges, which is a key step for all companies, and Ricoh continues to be one step ahead of the pack in ensuring it achieves its targets well before the stated deadlines.

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