Go Green America: How to Start a Recycling Program in Your Office

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), nearly 90 percent of solid waste in the workplace is recyclable. Many companies are increasing efforts to have a green work environment as they realize recycling can save money and reduce their carbon footprint. Implementing an office recycling program is a great way to engage employees who play a significant part. By making a few simple changes in regular habits and organizing a plan, any office can begin to reap the benefits of reducing waste in the office.

A recycling program that is effective and lasts requires a certain level of uniqueness. There are similar components in office recycling programs. However, each office typically develops a program based on the things that fit the office space, culture and outside partnerships. The following steps are useful to get the most from an office recycling program.

Choose a Recycling Coordinator

Organization is a fundamental part to having a sustainable recycling program. Part of this involves assigning one person to oversee the entire program. Typically, this person is responsible for the initial program design. Responsibilities include the selection of a hauling service and the arrangement of collecting materials in-house. Additionally, the recycling coordinator facilitates educational activities on recycling and tracks the program’s progress.

Either one person is in charge of these activities or the responsibilities are spread among several employees. This depends on the number of employees within the company. Ultimately, the success of a recycling initiative also depends on the involvement of senior management. Their participation is necessary to motivate employees to participate throughout the life of the program.

Identify Recyclable Materials

The next step in having a successful office recycling program is identifying which materials are recyclable. Most companies find conducting a waste assessment is helpful to determine which recyclable items are being thrown away. Water bottles, beverage cans and copy paper are some of the most common recyclable items in an office. Materials worth considering include:

• Old newspapers and magazines
• Aluminum
• Glass
• Corrugated cardboard boxes
• Plastic

Make it a Company-Wide Effort

Involve the assistance of the human resources department to develop an incentive for employees to become environmentally conscious. Making it a company-wide effort not only increases participation, but also increases the success of the program. This makes it easier to have cooperation from employees in every department.
Strategic placement of the recycling bins helps to encourage employees to think about sustainable efforts. This also helps to change old habits of throwing things in the trash can. Recycling bins need to be in areas where a significant amount of trash is generated. These areas are identified during the waste assessment and usually include copy rooms, cafeterias, break rooms and near printers.

In addition, the recycling bins should be easily identifiable. Clear signage for paper and aluminum cans, for example, should be visible on each bin. An office recycling program that is convenient and easy can boost the level of employee participation.

Plan for Storage and Pick-Up

A company that has an existing recycling program and is looking at new office space for lease should discuss its plans with building management. It is possible that the new office building has a recycling program of its own. If so, the company can take advantage of the existing program.

Materials removed from the recycling bins are stored onsite until pick-up day by the hauler. The actual process depends on contract terms with the hauler. Some office buildings have a dumpster to store the materials until pick-up day. If a company leases office space from a building that does not have a recycling program, it is responsible for these arrangements.

The hauler could provide a compactor as part of its services. If not, the company might consider investing in a compactor to decrease the number of pick-up days.

Another thing to consider when selecting a pick-up service is to check with the current trash hauler of the building. Some trash haulers also provide services to pick-up recycled materials. The recycling coordinator could verify this service before contracting with a different company. This has economical advantages and could help the company save on hauling costs.

Waste Prevention Practices

A successful recycling program does not stop at collecting cans and paper. Rather, incorporating waste prevention practices in the office encourages the use of fewer materials. A company can reduce, reuse and donate materials to save money and improve the environment.

As part of a broader sustainable program, recycling programs can jumpstart long-term savings. This is a smart business strategy for a company that is environmentally conscious. There are ways to complete tasks without using paper. Further, some office products can be reused. The company can donate used items to charitable organizations to demonstrate corporate social responsibility.

Reducing Waste

There are a variety of ways that a company can reduce waste that is generated in an office environment. Purchase products made with recycled items or products that do not require packaging materials.

Another example is to set office machines such as the printer and photocopier to default settings. Employees can receive training materials in electronic documents rather than printed materials.

Reusing Products

The life of certain products is extended by finding ways to reuse the items. For example, corrugated moving boxes can be reused internally after moving into a new office space. File folders and interoffice envelopes can be reused by different departments and new employees.

Incoming packaging can be reused for outgoing shipments. Durable napkins, glasses and cups can be used in the break room rather than disposable goods.

Donating Office Material

Waste is also prevented when the company donates materials or products to charitable organizations. Unwanted office supplies can be donated to schools and nonprofits. Local food banks will gladly accept uneaten food left over from a company party.

Creativity combined with organization abounds once a company begins planning and implementing an office recycling program. Keeping the focus on making a difference, while reducing business costs, creates a win-win situation for the company and the environment.

Eric Thompson is a guest Blogger for the Guardian Express. He hails from the great State of Texas, where he lives with his two dogs, who help him keep away depression, and squirrels.

You can view his blog here: http://www.officespaceforrent.org