We live in a world that’s increasingly filled with plastic — a substance that sticks around for a very long time. A plastic bottle, for example, can take 450 to 1,000 years to decompose in a landfill. Being aware of this fact and imagining mounds of plastic dominating the landscape can be a great incentive to make a change.
As a waste and resources management specialist, and in the lead up to Earth Day, I’m taking stock of what we can do to end plastic pollution — at an individual level and also what we can do collectively in our offices, communities and organizations.
The key to addressing this problem is to live by the five Rs:
- Reduce – minimize plastic consumption
- Refuse – refuse to accept these items
- Reuse – select products designed for multiple uses
- Recycle – recycle properly and as much as you can
- Remove – be part of the effort to remove plastic from our environment
For a week, heighten your awareness of plastic and start with these basics, including some simple ways to reduce your plastic waste. It’s easier than you think and might just change your life for the better while having a positive impact on the environment.
One of the things I love about my job is that I can use my expertise to not only benefit our clients, but also our workplace environments. At AECOM, we’ve established “Green Teams” that work to “incorporate the principles of sustainability into our internal operations at the grassroots level.” As part of the Nottingham office Green Team, our goals are good for the environment and also good for business. We work to:
- Reduce operating costs
- Minimise environmental impacts
- Optimise the use of resources
- Build positive relationships with our community
- Enhance a healthy, happy and productive workplace
In terms of our internal operations, we have plastic waste top of mind, whether encouraging the use of reusable water bottles or avoiding the use of plastic cutlery. To further our Green Team efforts, I’m developing a research paper on best practices related to waste and resources at the company level, looking to see what others are doing in order to continue applying methods and processes that will make AECOM more sustainable. (Look for a follow-up blog!)
As a company, AECOM contributes at all levels of the internationally recognised waste hierarchy, including working with our clients to help them avoid creating plastic pollution in the first place. Through close partnerships, we focus on truly understanding our clients’ needs, ensuring we can provide solutions that are appropriate to the particular economic, social, regulatory and environmental conditions of the countries and regions where we work.
As a multidisciplinary consultancy, our services range from providing high-level advice to government and financial institutions on procurement and policy issues, to construction supervision of individual waste facilities throughout the world. AECOM’s technical knowledge of the patterns of growing waste and options for collection, transfer, treatment and disposal allow us to comprehensively analyse each situation and propose strategies and polices that are cost effective, practical, sustainable and achievable.