Waste Breakfast Seminar – Event highlights

News – Monday, December 5th, 2016


On Wednesday 30th November 2016 ISEP and CCCA led a breakfast event about managing and reducing waste for businesses. A number of high profile businesses such as Veolia, Regent’s Place and Bennetts Associates attend the event. The event was held at Alara Wholefoods, the first food manufacturer to be zero waste and “the most sustainable food manufacturer on earth”, who provided an organic breakfast for delegates.

The event looked at the importance of waste management and more specifically at recycling in the business environment. Chloe Downing (First Mile) shared a number of principles and tips for office recycling:

  • Remember: not everything can be recycled – e.g. parts of plastic cups
  • Donate old furniture
  • Recycling needs to be as easy/simple as possible for employees
  • Display recycling reports or achievements to keep staff engaged and motivated to keep/increase recycling
  • Keep all staff involved
  • Buy more food compost bins to decrease food waste (e.g. for a large office with several floors: don’t only have 1 compost bin in the kitchen – instead, put 1 on each floor)

Alex Smith (Founder, Alara Wholefoods) then spoke about how they have embedded sustainability in their business including the challenge to being a zero waste operation. They consider 4 aspects of sustainability:

  • Financial
  • Environmental (they take responsibility for all embedded carbon, they offset carbon and work with a rainforest charity)
  • Social
  • Governance (they have transparent and publically available audits on their website)

These are some of the ways that they manage their waste:

  • Inedible food is sent to Camley Street Natural Park (where they have an anaerobic digester)
  • Edible food is donated to Hare Krishna
  • Polystyrene is reused when sending packages

Alex also stressed how essential entire staff engagement is for their business to be able to manage waste sustainably and continue to be zero waste.

Followed this, delegates had the opportunity to discuss the challenges and solutions of waste management. They came up with four key issues:

1.Changing the individual ‘under the desk’ bin culture. How do we stop staff using them?


  • get an action plan ready before you take the bins away – let people know what the alternative is going to be and the benefits
  • slim Jim bins – central hub or dotted around the office
  • feedback results to staff so you can let them know the positive benefits of the change
  • marketing campaign through the desktop screens to keep people on board.

2.Recycling within small working spaces. Where do those bins go? And how to get staff to use them when time/space is limited.


  • design recycling into space where possible – note to architects
  • be practical/pragmatic – look at big picture. If it’s not possible to recycle everything then where can you have biggest impact?
  • target your campaign to your audience
  • need senior management support (employees often easier to engage)
  • use training, face to face engagement + prizes.

3.Engaging staff (to reduce contamination)


  • need more awareness of new recycling schemes on offer (e.g. Costa’s new cup recycling scheme)
  • ask staff what they want/what recycling facilities they need
  • set recycling targets – but measure current rates first
  • make it ‘real’ – large numbers can be hard for individual employees to relate to – personalise it, so that the numbers are more relatable, and so that employees can easily see what effect they are having on recycling rates.

4.Minimising waste


  • need the right recycling facilities
  • need to change the behaviour of staff.

The event concluded with a site tour around Alara Wholefoods, where attendants were able to see their zero waste strategy in action as well as visit their gardens, where they grow fruit and harvest rain water.

This blog was written by Hamida Moncrieffe – ISEP Intern, who attended this event.

Share you views and stories

If you have any waste management tips that could be added to this blog, or any other successful sustainability story you would like to share, please contact us.