Waste Segregation

Working in a LEAN or 5S environment is all about reducing waste by organising processes, removing unused items and cleaning “as you go”. When most of us consider the idea of physical waste in the workplace though our thoughts turn to the consumable items we throw away on a regular basis.

As solid waste management technology and processes become more sophisticated it is no longer enough to simply sort items into those headed for landfill and those that can be converted and repurposed. Just as workplace efficiency deals with sorting and streamlining, solutions such as recycling bins allow us to segregate and categorise our waste. To find out more about how to implement a waste system and deal with waste materials efficiently check out our useful guide.

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Implementing a 5S Waste System


One of the basic principles of 5S methodology is “Sort” which looks at ways to organise your workplace in order to make operations easier. Waste removal through red tagging and disposing of rubbish and other unwanted items is a major part of this element. Spending time looking at this in detail during the initial stages of implementing workplace efficiency strategies will make a huge difference to every other step going forward.

Think not just about what equipment and assets you have that are no longer needed, but also about consumables that must be disposed of continuously during normal operations.

When thinking specifically about regular waste disposal and how to implement a working system going forward you must consider the following locations:

  • Storage areas – clear them of waste packaging and other clutter and then decide whether waste bins are required in these locations

  • Aisles and walkways – place bins at regular intervals to prevent rubbish becoming a trip hazard by being dropped accidentally

  • Process areas – small receptacles such as colour coded swing bins are perfect near machinery or other high use areas as these can be easily emptied into larger bins


  • Using Waste Categories to Determine Need


    Legislation is in place to categorise waste and determine how you should dispose of it. When deciding what provision you need look at how much refuse you produce and where it sits on the waste hierarchy. This will help you determine the most efficient way of dealing with it and what processes should be set up going forward.

    The 5 waste categories are:
  • Prevention – Can you organise work to remove the need for waste items entirely? This will always be preferable though not always practical.

  • Prepare for reuse – Can items be repaired or refurbished rather than thrown away? Think about using working components for spare parts or reusing packaging.

  • Recycling – Can an item be broken down and the raw material used to manufacture another product? Many items will likely fall into this category and provision for this should be a priority.

  • Other recovery – Can energy be recovered by incineration or gasification? For non-recyclable goods that are used often this should be investigated.

  • Disposal – If the answer is “no” to all of the above questions this category comes into play. Landfill and general incineration should be considered only as a last resort.


  • Waste should always be sorted as close to the source as possible to prevent double-handling. Provide larger waste containers where required and ensure they are clearly labelled using recognised signage to show where items such as wood, electrical waste and scrap metal should be placed.

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