Business Waste Reduction

Reduce Waste at the Source

NEW! Mandatory Commercial Recycling Law Requires Businesses to Recycle

Reducing waste at the source through more efficient practices usually provides the best environmental and economic returns in the long run. Taking steps to reduce waste by managing inventories, using less hazardous materials, streamlining production, modifying or replacing inefficient equipment will pay dividends in the end. Some tips to follow:

  • Avoid individually-wrapped/single-serving items and buy in bulk to reduce packaging waste.
  • Examine the possibility of weight, size or product volume reduction.
  • Use electronic communications among staff. Where this is not possible, circulate memos and reports to staff instead of providing a copy to each individual.
  • Make photocopies and printouts double-sided.
  • Purchase paper and other items with recycled content (preferably post-consumer) rather than those made from virgin materials.
  • Allow space on fax cover pages for a message or stick a "post-it-note" on the document. Also consider using a "wipe" cover sheet (transparent sheet that can be reused by writing with a water-based marker) or reuse a sheet of paper with multiple "To/From" (as with internal envelopes), crossing off previous entries.
  • Use a fax modem for sending faxes.
  • Choose products with little or no packaging.
  • Avoid disposable items.

Reuse at Every Opportunity

Some waste is inevitable, of course, but there are usually many ways it can be reused - from installing a closed-loop manufacturing system to returning pallets to a supplier instead of paying to have them thrown away.

  • Share magazine/journal subscriptions and circulate. Keep mailing lists current to avoid duplication.
  • Reuse the clean side of used paper for internal memos and reports. To make this easier, keep a separate tray for used paper near your photocopier and printer. Use reusable internal envelopes and encourage employees to reuse file folders and binders.
  • Encourage employees to bring food and drinks in reusable containers. Offer discounts to those using reusable coffee mugs.
  • Sell or donate unwanted items to charitable organizations or schools.
  • Speak to suppliers about eliminating packaging or taking back the packaging for reuse.
  • Look for ways to trade your waste with another business. One company's waste is often another company's resource.

Business Assistance

Assistance in waste diversion and recycling for businesses is available by calling the Eco-Desk at 707-565-DESK(3375), or by going to the Zero Waste Sonoma (also known as Sonoma County Waste Management Agency, or SCWMA) website . The Eco-Desk answers questions about recycling and about disposal of small quantities of hazardous waste from businesses in Sonoma County.

Business Resources

Business Reuse Programs

  • Creative Re-Use / North Bay 
    (707) 546-3340

Collects and warehouses manufacturing scraps, seconds and surplus materials as well as excess/obsolete supplies, equipment, some building materials, and furniture and makes these discards available to schools, nonprofits and other organizations.

Hazardous Wastes

The Zero Waste Sonoma (also known as Sonoma County Waste Management Agency, or SCWMA) sponsors several Business Hazardous Waste Collections a year. Your business can generate a maximum of 100 kilograms (27 gallons or 220 lbs.) or less hazardous waste per month. To find out about the next Business Hazardous Waste Collection, check the Zero Waste Sonoma website or call 565-DESK.

You may also have your hazardous wastes picked up from your business by appointment. Call the Toxic Taxi at (888) TOX-TAXI for an appointment.

Food Waste Composting

It is estimated that food wastes account for 50 percent of the material a restaurant dumps in the garbage bin. What to do? The answer may be in compost.

The Commercial Food Waste Pilot Program

Conducted by University of California Cooperative Extension, the pilot program explored the potential of diverting food waste by encouraging food businesses to operate an in-vessel composter at their site. Several Sonoma County food businesses participated in the program with some promising results:

Recycling Market Development Loan Program

Low-interest loans are available from the California Integrated Waste Management Board to businesses in Sonoma, Mendocino and Lake counties which manufacture with secondary materials. Call for 707-262-1090 for more information.

Business Waste Consultants

Waste Reduction Technology 

Waste Reduction Technology works with businesses in Sonoma and Marin Counties to help clients reduce waste and save money at no net cost to the client, as they earn their fees as a percentage of the client's savings. Visit their at website or call 415-482-0388 for more information.