Recycle at Work
Although many of us are good about recycling at home, it can be harder to recycle at work if the right systems aren't in place. There are a number of ways you can help get your workplace started down the road to recycling.
We can help!
Take the guesswork out of starting or improving your workplace recycling by joining Recycle More At Work. This free program provides what you need to make your workplace recycling program a success.
What makes a successful recycling program?
To have a successful recycling program, your workplace will need to address the following:
Good leadership consists of:
- Supportive management - Management that is supportive by providing the time and resources necessary
to have a successful program.
- Program coordinator - Part- or full-time staff who coordinates the recycling program including infrastructure, logistics and communication.
- Green team - A formal green team consisting of representatives from each department that can provide support for recycling and other sustainability efforts.
- Janitorial services - A key department to have involved from the beginning. They can make the difference between program success and failure.
- Dedicated staff - A well-informed staff that is motivated to recycle.
2. Waste stream knowledge
It's hard to recycle when you don't know what you're throwing away. Your workplace needs to take
an inventory of its waste streams. A typical workplace generates the following types of waste, all of which can be recycled:
- Single-stream (cans, paper, cardboard and plastic bottles and containers) - These are the standard recyclable materials, and they are generated throughout your workplace. If your workplace already recycles these items, that's great. If it doesn't, contact your trash hauler. Most trash haulers offer single-stream recycling services. When talking to your hauler, your workplace will need to consider the following:
- Amending your trash contract to include:
1) single-stream recycling services, and
2) language requiring your hauler to provide monthly reports on amounts recycled and disposed.
- Space, either existing or new, for a recycling dumpster or carts.
- Glass - Glass food and beverage containers are generated in breakrooms, cafeterias, individual workspaces, and at special events. Ripple Glass offers both drop-off and pickup recycling services for glass.
- Food waste - Food waste is generated in breakrooms, cafeterias, coffee stations, meeting rooms, individual workspaces and at catered events. It includes all food (even meat, bones and shells), and food-related waste such as napkins, paper towels, coffee filters and grounds, and compostable cutlery, cups, and plates. Missouri Organic Recycling and KC Can Compost offer compost pickup services.
- Toner and printer cartridges - Toner and printer cartridges are generated wherever copiers and printers are located at your workplace. Contact the vendor who provides your copiers and printers. Most of them provide mail-back recycling programs. If they don’t, find the nearest drop-off location on RecycleSpot.org.
- Batteries - Both single-use (AA, 9-volt, button, etc.) and rechargeable (phone, laptop, rechargeable tools) batteries are generated throughout all workspaces. Your workplace can recycle these types of batteries through the following vendors which provide pre‐paid mail-back programs: Waste Management, Call2Recycle, Inc., and The Big Green Box.
- Plastic bags and film - Plastic bags and film are generated throughout your workplace. They include shopping bags, case wrap (example: case of water bottles), pallet wrap, and plastic shipping envelopes, air pillows, and bubble wrap. Smaller-sized entities can recycle bags and film at grocery stores and big box stores. Entities that generate large amounts of plastic bags and film should contract directly with a plastic processor.
- Electronics - Electronics consist of anything that runs on a cord or battery: computers, TVs, phones, microwaves, coffee makers, tools, flashlights, walky-talkies, etc. Your workplace can contract directly with an e-waste recycler such as Midwest Recycling Center, Liquid Tech KC, ProShred Kansas City, or Pcs for People (computer equipment only) or work with any of the following retailers that offer take-back programs Best Buy, Staples and Office Depot / Office Max. Make sure your e-waste vendor is either R2 or e-Stewards certified.
- Hazardous waste - Hazardous waste includes any product labeled with DANGER, WARNING, or CAUTION. Examples include paint, automotive fluids, landscaping chemicals, cleaners, pest control chemicals, batteries, and fluorescent light bulbs. These items are usually found under sinks, in storage areas, and janitorial and maintenance spaces. For more info, visit Businesses and Organizations.
- Large appliances - Washers, dryers, dishwashers, refrigerators and freezers are found in breakrooms, cafeterias, and laundry facilities. The best way to deal with old- or non-working appliances is to have your vendor take them back when they replace them with a new one. Large appliances can also be recycled through scrap metal dealers, landfills, or transfer stations. If your old appliance still works, there may be no need to recycle it. Contact a used appliance dealer or a Habitat ReStore to find out if it can be reused.
- Furniture and fixtures - Check with your furniture and fixture vendors to see if they offer any take-back/trade-in programs. If not, Habitat ReStores accept furniture and offer pickup services.
- Construction and demolition waste (C&D) - C&D is the waste resulting from new construction, remodeling, or demolition of buildings, structures, and parking lots. It include materials such as concrete, asphalt, brick, wood, drywall, metals, carpet, glass, plastics, building components (doors, windows, plumbing fixtures, etc.), and landscape waste. If your workplace is working with a contractor to perform this work, require that recycling options for all waste materials be included in the contract. If your workplace is performing the work itself, project managers will need to determine waste streams resulting from the project and procure a recycling option for each individual stream. Habitat ReStores accept new and used building materials that meet their criteria.
- Industry-specific waste - If your workplace manufactures products, there are probably resulting waste
streams that could be reduced or eliminated.
Good bins are a key ingredient in a great recycling program:
- Color - Follow the industry standard color-scheme
- Blue - Single-stream recycling
- Black - Trash / Landfill
- Green - Compost
- Other - For all other waste streams, you can pick whatever color you want as long as you're consistent throughout your workplace.
- Size - Size bins according to the amount of waste created. For example, a recycling bin next to a copier that receives heavy use would need to be at least 23 gallons. For a small meeting room, a 3 gallon recycling bin would be sufficient.
- Lids - Lids make people stop and think about what they're disposing. Lidless bins are just asking for contamination.
- Consistency - Consistency reduces confusion, so use the same brand, style and color-scheme for bins throughout your entire workplace as appropriate.
- Placement - Location is everything!
- Always place bins in easy-to-use spaces: where the waste is generated and/or near staff exit points.
- Always pair trash cans and co-mingled recycling bins. Otherwise, you'll get a lot of recyclables in the
trash and a lot of trash in the recyclables.
- Has minimal text
- Is image based
- Can be secured on the top or directly above the bin
Both Bridging The Gap and Recycle Across America can provide signage that meets these criteria.
5. Continuous Communication
High-quality, continuous communication is the cornerstone of a successful program. Here are some tips for
improving your recycling program communication:
- Communications staff - Work with in-house communications staff to strategize, design and distribute your messages.
- Frequency - Shoot for monthly or twice-monthly.
- Content - Include information on which items go in which bins, progress toward recycling goals, employee spotlights, options for materials that can be recycled at home, etc.
- Opportunities - Use every type of outreach at your disposal including: social media, website, intranet, email, CCTV, newsletters, posters, bulletin boards, meetings and special events.
- Have fun - Periodically hold contests or events that keep awareness, participation and enthusiasm high. A few examples include:
- Clean Your Files Day - Staff can recycle paper and cardboard and donate unused / gently-used office supplies to a swap shop table or room. Supply closets and storage rooms can be cleaned out and organized as well.
- Ugly Mug Contest - Can be used to promote use of durable mugs, cups and water bottles among staff.
- Ice Cream Social - In order to get your free ice cream, you have to sort sample recyclables into the right bins.