All Fields Required

six inexpensive ways to reduce waste - man throwing wadded up paper into a garbage can

6 Inexpensive Ways to Reduce Waste for Your Small Business

Posted On
Erin Vaughan

We all know it’s possible to use waste policies to cut company spending. 3M, for instance, was famously able to save around $500 million just by implementing a more aggressive waste reduction strategy. 

But when you're not a multi-million dollar company, are waste reduction plans really practical, especially when the money for extras like removal services just isn't there?

Actually, there are plenty of ways to prevent materials inefficiencies that will actually save you money—without having to spend anything upfront. Here are some of the best.

Perform a DIY Waste Audit

It's hard to create meaningful waste policies when you're not sure exactly what it is you're wasting.

For instance, you may not realize how much paper those weekly printouts were using until you see it with your own eyes. Professional waste audit services suss out hidden forms of waste to give you a more precise understanding of your problem areas—but they can be expensive.

If your hope is to use waste reduction as a way to save money, splurging on a professional audit may not make sense. Instead, take it upon yourself to review waste removal services expenses, production, unused materials, and shipping processes to see which areas could use a little help.

Tally up what goes into your company's garbage—you may be surprised by the results.

Reuse Packaging Materials

Small businesses commonly have materials coming in and packaged goods going out, so it makes sense to gather reusable shipping materials from your incoming items and turn them around on new shipments.

Styrofoam packing peanuts and even plastic air cushioned packaging can take hundreds of years to decompose in landfills, so any reuse you can get out of these materials is an environmental win.

Plus, it will cut back on expenses for new supplies as well, so it's just a smart business move.

Get Smart About Inventories

In a bustling small business, it can be easy to drop routine maintenance tasks like inventories in favor of higher-profile work.

However, there's a price to be paid for lapsed expiration dates, and it comes in the form of wasted product (and lost revenue). Besides just keeping track of perishable goods, think about subbing out or reducing your orders on products that often spoil before they're sold.

Comparing inventories week-to-week will help you get a feel for what's routinely going to waste.

Make a Donation

Special events tend to rack up their fair share of leftovers—uneaten food, extra T-shirts, unused materials—which, taken as a whole, can put a big hit on your waste reduction profile.

To reduce this waste, first think about sustainability: if you have recurring events, such as an annual fundraiser, can you invest in durable decorations that can be reused for next year?

Obviously, some items are only going to be good for one event. Where that's the case, think about donating extras to a local Goodwill, and perishable goods to a food bank or shelter. The Good Samaritan Food Donation Act protects these in-kind donations, and you may even be able to write the donations off.

Seriously, Stop Printing Stuff Out

Know those little memos people put on the end of their email signatures, telling you to think about the environment before you print? Maybe it's time you heeded that advice.

By some estimates, the average office worker prints out a good 10,000 sheets of paper per year. That's about two-thirds of a tree, so if you have a thriving small business, you may be putting a small forest in the garbage before you even know it.

And that's not the only resource eaten up by all those printouts: about three percent of annual revenues and fifty percent of in-office IT calls go to printing, so it's making your workflow less efficient and productive as well. Instead, encourage your staff to use their laptops, tablets, and phones wherever possible.

Use Cloud-based Services To Phase Out Paper

There's a common misconception that important documents, like contracts and application forms, aren't official unless they're completed on paper. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

The Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act makes digital signatures binding in most contracts and legal documents.

Using a cloud-based contract service like DocuSign or RightSignature lets you send out materials for signatures without using a drop of ink. Plus, you'll likely get your paperwork in order faster, too.

Meanwhile, online form building software like Google Forms, Wufoo, or JotForm can make client onboarding simpler and smoother—no trees harmed.

Once you've implemented new waste policies for your company, don't stop there. Make an effort to review your waste reduction strategies—and their effectiveness—regularly to keep your business running as efficiently as possible. Real change will only happen with a long-term commitment, both to your company and the environment.


Erin Vaughan is a blogger, gardener and aspiring homeowner.  She currently resides in Austin, TX where she writes full time for, with the goal of empowering homeowners with the expert guidance and educational tools they need to take on big home projects with confidence.

Read More: 3 Ways Every Business Can Help Save the Planet and Benefit Too