How to Start a Recycling Program

Mon, Feb 23, 2009

Energy Saving

Most of us recycle at home in one form or another but recycling in the office is another story. Many small businesses are not set up to recycle. It takes time and effort to arrange a recycling program but there are numerous benefits. Recycling helps companies save money by reducing garbage service pick-up, reduce’s the organizations carbon foot-print, and helps improve employee morale. These days it feels good to do the right thing for the environment and the staff will most likely be excited about participating in this worthwhile effort.

Here are some tips for launching a recycling program in your office.

Step 1: Enlist Buy-In from Management

The first step is to assign a ‘recycling coordinator’ who is committed and interested in spearheading the recycling program in your office. The recycling coordinator needs to enlist management’s support before pursuing the program. Management’s buy-in is key to the success of the program. Once management signs off on the program, the coordinator should enlist volunteers to form a ‘Green Team.’ Send out a memo to the company announcing the program. Explain the benefits of recycling: saves the company money by decreasing garbage service pick-up, helps reduce the company’s carbon foot-print, and helps improve employee morale. Inspire employees to participate by assigning awards for those who embrace the new program, such as for those employees who initiate the process. Get creative about ways you can make it fun for the staff!

Step 2: Determine what Items to Recycle

Take a walk through the facility and look at what recyclable materials are being thrown in the garbage. The most common items are paper, cardboard, plastic, cans and bottles. Keep in mind that packing material, toners, electronics and office equipment are potentially recyclable. Initially target your recycling program to include the largest volumes of waste being thrown in the garbage. If you work in an office, typically your largest amount of garbage will be from paper so start there. Once your recycling program is up and running, begin recycling other waste in your office such as cans and bottles. Continue to build on your successes as you progress.

Step 3: Hire a Recycling Company to Pick-up Materials

Once you have decided which materials to recycle, ask your garbage company if they will pick-up and recycle these items. There are also independent recycling companies you can hire. Visit www.recyclestuff.org for a listing of recycling companies or call the Recycle Hotline at 1-800-533-8414.

Step 4: Determine where to Place Recycling Bins

Recycling bins should be located next to where the materials are generated, such as next to copiers and printers, and in work stations and near break rooms.

Recycling bins should be properly labeled and should be placed next to all waste baskets in your facility.

Step 5: Create a Plan for Collecting Recyclables for Pick-up

Decide how waste will be moved out of the facility for pick-up by the garbage or recycling company. Communicate your plan with your cleaning staff as their support is integral to the success of your program. Explain to your cleaning crew that the implementation of a recycling program will most likely reduce the amount of garbage generated in your facility and thus will lighten their workload.

Here are some ideas used by other companies for collecting the recyclables in your facility. Discuss these with your cleaning staff and decide which works best for your facility and which adheres to any service contracts.

1) Employees are responsible to empty their individual recycling bins into a centralized bin (one centralized bin for every 10-15 employees). The cleaning service is then responsible for only collecting the recyclables from the centralized recycling bin in addition to emptying the regular garbage.

2) The cleaning staff empties both the recycling bin and the garbage can from each workstation according to their typical cleaning schedule.

3) Employees are responsible to empty both their individual recycling bins and their waste baskets into larger centralized bins. The cleaning staff is only responsible to empty these larger bins.

4) The cleaning staff collects recycling from each workstation and employees empty their regular waste bins into centralized bins. The cleaning staff only empties these larger bins.

Step 6: Educate Staff

Share your new program with everyone at your company. Train them in each step of the process. Set-up a recycling training session and have every employee physically walk through the recycling process. Implement the recycling training into your new hire orientation program. Include your cleaning crew in the program. Create enthusiasm for the program by distributing awards for those who contribute the most and for those who initiate new ideas. Consistently send emails to the staff about the program and acknowledge employees who make great efforts. Continually ask for their ideas to improve the program.

Step 7: Follow-up and Measure Results

Announce positive results about the program through emails and company newsletters. Continually monitor the progress of the program. Staying on track of the program will help you make necessary adjustments for improvement and maintain buy-in from management and staff. Measure your program’s success by asking for volume reports or tonnage from your recycling companies or garbage service. Quantify the results by announcing the amount of resources saved, pollution prevented or money saved for the company. Important stat: for every ton of paper your company recycles, 17 trees are saved! Think about announcing the number of trees your company has saved over time – such as every 6 months or on an annual basis as a way to measure and acknowledge success.

Step 8: Encourage the Creation of other Waste Reduction Programs

Once the recycling program is running smoothly, encourage the staff to reduce waste in other ways. Ask the Green Team to implement a waste reduction program. There are a myriad of ways to save energy and reduce waste beyond recycling. Re-using materials, purchasing green office supplies, installing motion sensors, connecting your electronics to a power strip, printing documents on both sides, are just a few ideas. Much the same way you launched a recycling program, do the same with a waste reduction program by making it fun and creative and participatory for the staff. Remember to continually update your staff on the programs’ successes and create innovative ways to reward your staff and encourage continual enthusiasm. Once you have a few green programs under way, maybe you will want to create a Green Olympics where staff competes against each other in terms of who can conserve the most energy and save the most money for the company! Have fun and good luck!

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