Zero-Waste Office: The Why And The How

Oct 12, 2018 1 Min Read


Solid waste is one of the three major environmental problems in Malaysia. This puts a great amount of strain on our ecosystem and our own well-being.

At present, over 23,000 tonnes of waste is produced in Malaysia every day. We are also the 8th worst producers of plastic waste in the world.

The amount of waste generated continues to increase due to the increasing population and development – and only less than 5% of the waste is being recycled. 

Co-founder of Zero Waste Malaysia, Khor Sue Yee and members Tina Yap and Yeong Sze Ern shared their organisational waste management strategies.

Zero Waste Malaysia is a non-profit organisation that began in 2016 with the vision of furthering the Zero Waste Movement in Malaysia.

They provide a platform for Malaysians to share and learn how to generate less waste and organise Zero Waste events.

One of the key ways to tackle this issue on the ground is to simply reduce our own output of waste.

The first step is finding out exactly how much of it is created, where the waste is coming from, and how the waste is being generated.

However, this can be tricky in an office setting because offices use significantly more resources than homes.

A typical office, for example, may contribute up to two pounds of waste paper, per employee.

Khor says it can also be industry dependent, “For instance, paper is a major waste source created in corporate environments while packaging waste is likely to occur in a manufacturing company.

“I personally believe that all organisations should evaluate and identify their major waste source and find ways to reduce it.”

“Recyclable waste produced in offices is mostly paper, and some packaging that office supplies and tools come in. The most common non-recyclable waste individuals at work produce comes from the use of disposable coffee cups, tissues, and snack packaging – including takeaway food and beverages.” adds Yeong.

It is necessary and important for organisations to take charge of their waste habits as it has a ripple effect on the larger community.

Yeong shares, “the change that is required to reverse the negative impact we’ve had on the environment has to be collective – as a community – which requires systemic change and this of course, involves organisations.”     

Yap adds, “Reducing waste from going into landfills is essentially a form of social justice. Land degradation and climate change severely impacts rural communities and those living in poverty.

“They are defenceless as rural areas lack mitigation strategies and basic facilities. An accountable organisation should constantly seek opportunities to encourage and empower employees to mobilise for positive change.”


Organisational initiative: Integrating policies 

“Refuse what you do not need; reduce what you do need; reuse what you consume; recycle what you cannot refuse, reduce, or reuse; and rot (compost) the rest.” – Bea Johnson, Zero Waste Home


Khor says that actions speak louder than words and that is why Zero Waste lives by the principles of the 5Rs’ (Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot) in order to create a sustainable workplace.

The feasibility of each depends on the organisation.

However, implementing a waste management plan is essential to any zero-waste office program.

Products such as paper, plastic, and even leftover food can be put towards recycling or composting programs.

“If the practice of refusing is hard, setting up a waste segregation area works best as an alternative. For door-step collection at the workplace, the employer can utilise companies like Recircle, a mobile recycling application that makes recycling more convenient,” advised Yap.

Yeong shared that her organisation has formed a Go Green committee made up of a group of employees who look for ways to reduce waste and advocate green initiatives across the organisation.

They recently launched a Tapao Corner where unused containers and recyclables are kept and are eventually donated to i-Cycle – a waste separation and recycling solution provider.

“Employers and leaders need to share their commitment with the whole organisation and display their efforts in reducing their waste publicly.

“This can range from initiatives at the top level like including green initiatives as part of the organisation’s policies, to the basic act of practising what you preach and encouraging employees to get involved,” she shared.

What can you do? 

These are some of the actions Khor, Yeong, and Yap shared that you and your company can take today:

  • Educate yourself on the big sources of waste in Malaysia and its impact.
  • Evaluate your sources of waste and discuss as a team, how to reduce it.
  • Incorporate a zero-waste culture into your work climate as the organisation’s commitment through intentional office practice, campaign, or policy. Instil the idea of the refusing and reducing lifestyle. 
  • Simple actions make a real difference. Organisations, corporate and others, can start with the small things such as replacing all single-use items with reusable ones. Encourage employees to keep things as digital as possible to reduce paper usage.

Civic responsibility 

“Leadership requires the courage to make decisions that will benefit the next generation.” ‒ Alan Autry


Beyond our corporate social responsibility, communities and nations succeed when everyone has a sense of civic duty and responsibility to one another.

In the case of the environment, this is especially true as our actions do not exist in a vacuum but instead, impact the wellbeing of others and ourselves.

With a worldwide call to “Go Green,” sustainable business practices should consider not only the use of resources in production, but also the assurance that those resources can be replenished for future use.


Prefer an e-mag reading experience? This article is also available in our 13th October, 2018 digital issue. Access our digital issues here.


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Louisa was formerly an editorial associate and freelance writer with Leaderonomics. An extrovert who loves the outdoors; she thinks change is exciting and should be embraced.

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