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Green practice: Spoon feeding

Every Issue

Small changes can have big outcomes when it comes to landfill reduction.

Melbourne law firm Maddocks recently decided to switch from wooden stirrers to teaspoons in their kitchens.

The motivation behind the change was to reduce the firm’s contribution to landfill by switching from disposable stirrers to reusable teaspoons. The result was an immediate and impressive estimated saving of 115kg of waste to landfill each year.

A spokesperson for the environment committee at Maddocks explained: “In making the change we believed there was a clear opportunity to reduce landfill from the Melbourne office. It was also part of our environment committee 2011-2012 campaign focus on effecting small behavioural change to achieve a large cumulative benefit”.

The issues identified by the committee that supported the case for change were:

  • the lifecycle of stirrers as opposed to teaspoons;
  • the amount of waste/landfill created through their use; and
  • the issue of sanitation, with employees leaving dirty wooden stirrers around the kitchen.

The environment committee estimated that over a 48-week working year the firm used 115kg of wooden stirrers. Importantly, this figure only accounted for 12 per cent of a 50-storey building – the building space that Maddocks’ Melbourne office occupies. Assuming this use is representative of the 50 storeys, the building produces approximately 991kg of wooden stirrers per year in waste. Importantly, financial savings that have been generated as a result of the change are estimated at approximately $2700.

Curiously, there was limited but vociferous outcry at the removal of the stirrers. However, as with most changes of this kind, the outburst was (unsurprisingly) short lived once the committee explained the facts about the cumulative impact of the change to the objectors.

Among Maddocks’ key environmental commitments, the firm is striving for zero waste to landfill through waste reduction, reuse and recycling.

Zero waste is an end of itself, because it reduces the demand for increasingly rare landfill sites. But it also demonstrates reduction in the use of those resources necessary to produce the product that is being thrown in the bin. There are then the consequential cost savings at both the purchasing stage as well as the waste disposal stage.

Maddocks is a founding member of the Australian Legal Sector Alliance (AusLSA)1 and has developed an Environmental Management System (EMS) in line with the international EMS standard ISO 14001. Reducing waste to landfill is embodied in the principles of AusLSA,2 and ISO 14001 also incorporates a zero waste component.3

Encouraging your firm to join AusLSA and implement an EMS are great mid- to long-term goals for those of you who are environmentally minded, and one part of your strategy may be moving your firm towards zero waste to landfill.

Other changes you can implement in the office kitchen if there is no dishwasher, or for unavoidable use of disposable products, is a switch to green paper cups, teaspoons and stirrers, such as those developed by BioPak.4

According to the company’s website, BioPak produces a range of environmentally friendly products. Unlike ordinary paper cups that use a petroleum-based plastic lining, the BioCups are lined with a bioplastic lining (PLA) derived from cornstarch.

The production of PLA emits fewer greenhouse gas emissions when compared to conventional plastic production. In addition, the paper used to produce BioCups is sourced from managed plantations, rather than old growth forests,and all emissions associated with the production and distribution of their products is offset through the purchase of carbon credits. While the cup will nevertheless end up in landfill, it has the upstream benefits of fewer greenhouse gas emissions and reduced dependence on fossil fuels.




JOLIEN QUISPEL is a member of the Green Practice Project. See www.liv.asn.au/greenpractice.

1. For more information on the Australian Legal Sector Alliance visit www.legalsectoralliance.com.au.

2. www.legalsectoralliance.com.au/principles.html.

3. For more information on ISO 14001 go to: www.iso.org/iso/iso_14000_essentials.

4. To see BioPak’s range of green products visit: https://biopak.com.au/products.php.

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