The circular economy moves into the office!

Posted on 28 March 2017.

Simple eco-gestures, office waste management, reusing computer equipment... Some ideas to make your work environment a little more sustainable.

Become an office eco-citizen too!

Every year offices produce millions of tonnes of waste, use enormous amounts of energy and cause CO2 emissions that are sometimes as high as several tonnes per person per year. But fortunately, anyone can make their work environment a little more sustainable. There numerous eco-friendly ways of reducing your environmental footprint in the office. Here are just a few:

- "At the office, act like you do at home. Make ADEME’s maxim your own, and adopt the same sorting or energy-saving habits at work as at home.

- The printer often crystallizes the attention of environmentally conscious employees: print documents on both sides and use draft mode; set the machine to economy mode; reuse paper for rough notes.
- Even when switched off, some appliances continue to consume energy. The trick is to plug them into power strips so you can stop them all at once when you leave the office. You can also turn off your computer when you are away for more than 30 minutes (lunch breaks, meetings) and when you go home. The more zealous can use an eco-friendly search engine, such as Black Google.
- Reduce waste by replacing plastic cups with your own personal mug.
- You can reduce your carbon emissions by planning videoconferences instead of face to face meetings on the other side the city (or the country); choose the train rather than the plane for short trips; if possible walk or cycle to the office rather than take the car - try carpools if not.

Organizations that recover your office waste

Used paper, ink cartridges, plastic cups, furniture, textiles... More and more structures - eco-organizations, specialized companies, start-ups, etc. - will get rid of your office waste for you. From collection to recycling and re-use, they take care of everything - sometimes even free of charge. Among these, you can use:

- Valdelia : this non-profit eco-organization collects end-of-life office furniture throughout France. Some is transformed into secondary raw materials, some is re-used. Since it was set up in 2011, Valdelia has revived more than 30,000 pieces of furniture, and aims to upgrade 75% of all waste.
- ELISE : This Lille–based company collects and recycles all types of office waste, from old paper to furniture, lamps and neon lights. It processes more than 17,000 tonnes of waste per year, in particular through a partnership with Veolia, a and has created 275 solidarity jobs, with a target of 300 additional jobs by 2020.
- Cy-Clope : this Lyon start-up offers communities and businesses a complete solution for managing cigarette butt waste. For a monthly fee, it installs "cy-clopeurs" and transports cigarette butts to a processing plant where they are recycled to make compost and building materials.
- Finally the Canibal team has developed a mini-sorting center that devours cups, cans and bottles. The size of a coffee machine, this collector recognizes, sorts and compacts all types of beverage packaging waste.

Recycling is good, reuse is even better

Your company probably has loads of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) such as computers, telephones, photocopiers, small devices, etc. In many countries, regulations now require producers or distributors of electrical and electronic equipment (the company that sold you the computers, for example) to collect and process used appliances.

This is the case in France where, according to ADEME, 526,855 tonnes of WEEE (waste electrical and electronic equipment) was collected in 2014, "52 times the weight of the Eiffel Tower or 10 times the weight of the Titanic".

So if one day you want to replace your old computers, think about re-use. Organizations will collect your equipment, restore it, or simply update it, before selling it through the second hand market or giving it to associations. For example, the eco-organization EcoLogic, which signed a partnership with the Ressourceries network in 2016, and Les Ateliers du Bocage, which sells reconditioned equipment to companies.