As we usher in a new year, it’s time to start looking at keeping the office to the same standard as your home. Charlotte Ward speaks to some of the UAE’s experts on how to de-clutter for a healthy 2018 workspace
At home, being environmentally conscious is a priority for many of us as we make efforts to recycle or reuse the many items that find their way into our households. However, in our working environments it can be a whole different story. As we rush through tasks in the office, can we honestly say the same thought goes into the products that are used and discarded as we get down to business?
With the advent of a new year upon us, what better time to give your environmentally damaging office habits a shake up? Perhaps your office’s eco-efforts could be quickly improved with the introduction of a recycling bin to collect the reusable paraphernalia from coffees on the go or store-bought lunch? Or maybe you just need to think about a more sustainable destination for the unwanted reams of paper or old equipment cluttering up your workspace? Whatever route you take, streamlining your office will likely pay dividends. As well as reducing your carbon footprint, you could save money on office space in the process.
‘Businesses are often reluctant to recycle for fear they could lose something important,’ reveals Shelina Jokhiya, founder of Dubai-based professional organising service DecluttrMe. ‘Big concerns range from losing something that might be needed in a the future to worries that confidential information could end up in the wrong hands. I tell clients they are wasting valuable real estate by keeping this stuff in their office or warehouse. If they got rid of their clutter, they could rent a much smaller space for less money and still be a productive, running business.’
To make a start Jokhiya recommends setting aside a substantial portion of time for a thorough and diligent clear out.
‘You need to review everything,’ she tells The Ethicalist. ‘I help business clients to sort their clutter into four piles: recycle, shred, destroy or keep. Paper is easy to recycle, especially as a lot of documents gathering dust in offices are no longer needed now that businesses have gone digital. If there are concerns about security then a specialist company that can recycle unwanted documents, without compromising sensitive information, is probably needed.’
E-waste such as old printers, monitors and phones are a common cause of clutter for many offices. When this electronic scrap makes its way into landfill it is bad news for everyone. According to the United Nations, more than 17 kilos of e-waste is generated per UAE inhabitant each year, amounting to almost 600,000 tonnes in 2015. This figure is expected to rise to a 900,000 tonnes by 2020. If this excessive e-waste is left to erode in the earth it just adds to the harmful chemicals and toxins already polluting our environment.
It is for this reason that responsible recycling company Enviroserve strip down unwanted office electrical appliances to harvest plastics, metals and glass for reuse.
‘When e-waste is discarded in landfills, toxic materials, such as mercury and lead, can easily seep into soil and water causing long-term environmental and health hazards,’ says Enviroserve CEO Stuart Fleming. ‘Whenever we recycle we conserve our ecosystem and natural habitat and cut down on demand for landfills. We want to optimise the use of our resources to decrease global warming and pollution.’
It has always been Fleming’s goal to see something good come out of every element of an unwanted product. Once reusable paper and scrap metals have been passed on to companies that can make products from them, any non-recyclable parts are incinerated, with the energy generated funneled to power factories.
His vision is spreading with Enviroserve now working in partnership with the UAE to create a sustainable environment and infrastructure by 2021. At present Dubai Municipality’s PC Rehabilitation Center will take donated computers, laptops, printers, scanners, photocopiers and other computer equipment for recycling. In the future there will be more options. In April this year Fleming signed off on an agreement with Dubai Wholesale City to construct the world’s largest e-cycling plant. The 228,000 square foot electronics and specialised waste recycling center will be located at Dubai Industrial Park.
Wile we wait however, each of us can concentrate on small steps to cut back on office crimes against sustainability.
‘Revamp your work space as an eco-office,’ Jokhiya advises. ‘Go paper-free where possible and have recycle bins available for staff everywhere. Organise workshops to explain the value of recycling to your team. Help spread the message about the importance of making eco-friendly work decisions.’