How to Start a Recycling Program at Work

Apr 6

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Earth Day is Friday, April 22 this year – a reminder that one of the best things we can do is invest in the long-term wellbeing of our planet. Recycling is critical to Earth’s future. It reduces the need to harvest trees for paper, keeps plastics out of our oceans and landfills, and reduces our contribution to global climate change. By working together, we can build a brighter future for our little chunk of the solar system – let’s start this by recycling at work.

Offices produce a lot of recyclable waste. On average, each office worker generates around 2 pounds of recyclable paper waste every day, not taking into account plastic water bottles and other materials that often get discarded during a typical workday. Starting a recycling campaign for your workplace is a great way to help reduce landfill waste, save energy, and help the environment.  An office recycling program is also a low-risk way for companies to save money and improve bottom lines. 

We’ve done the digging to provide you with the steps for how to start a recycling program at your workplace so that your company can do its part and bring us all into a cleaner, healthier future for our planet.

Step 1 – Get the word out

We assume you’ve already decided that a recycling program is right for your company, and the C-suite has given you the green light to get a program underway. 

Announce to your staff the company’s decision to implement a recycling program. A good time to present your plan to everybody is during a regularly-scheduled company meeting or a meeting specific to the topic. Layout any directions leadership has determined, and express your company’s desire to work more responsibly and do what it can to protect the environment.

Step 2 – Get your staff to buy-in

With the rising popularity of workplace recycling programs, many people will be excited right out the starting gate. Some may not be as enthusiastic, but you can get everyone on board with a good awareness strategy. 

Come up with ways to raise enthusiasm among your staff. One clever way to generate excitement about starting a recycling program at work is to offer a company-wide reward – like a pizza party, movie night, trivia, or some kind of bonus – once you’ve met a certain weight or volume-based recycling goal. For instance, you can have a member of your enviro-team track how many full bins the recycling contractor hauls away, or some other clever method of keeping track that your team devises. 

Step 3 – Get a team together

There will be plenty of people excited about your company’s proposed recycling program. You should have no shortage of employees offering their recycling ideas for work and volunteering their services to the cause.

Gather together a handful of the most enthusiastic team members – the overachievers, the schedule keepers, and the workhorses – and form a committee dedicated to handling the planning, logistics, and in-office communication for your fledgling program. Give them the level of autonomy and budget that works best for your company.

Step 4 – Get a plan together

The time has come to lay out the nuts-and-bolts strategy for getting the office recycling plan underway. Here’s where we get a bit more specific. There’ll be many components to your implementation strategy, but these are the key pieces to decide on:

  • Determine your materials

Decide on which materials you’re going to recycle. Ideally, you’d be recycling all recyclables, but that could be unfeasible for several reasons. Perhaps no contractor in your city collects a particular type of material, and you have to find an alternative to recycling. Brainstorm ideas to help overcome these obstacles.

  •  Determine potential contractors

The rules and regulations surrounding recycling differ from city to city, but most bigger cities have numerous contracting outfits that provide recycling services for businesses and offices. Put together a list of services to call so that you can put your questions to them.

  • Determine placement

It may not sound important, but where you place your recycling bins is crucial to a successful recycling strategy in any workplace. If you work in a large office or facility, the less enthusiastic team members will likely toss their empty water bottles in a trash receptacle. Unfortunately , they won’t be as vigilant about doing their part if the nearest recycling bin is half a city block away. Place containers accordingly and see your success unfold.

  • Don’t forget electronics

Electronics and appliances aren’t usually at the forefront of our recycling focus the way cardboard, plastic, and glass are, but it’s important to come up with ways to dispose of our devices that use electricity properly. Usually, a specialized recycling service is required, and they can be a bit pricier than standard recycling contractors. So, set up one or two days a year where employees and your company can dispose of their old phones, miscellaneous computer parts, and that microwave from the break room that no longer works. Then call in the specialized recyclers to haul it all away.

Step 5 – Get your contractors in order

Once you have your list of potential contractors, it’s time to call around and ask your questions. Get price quotes. Ask about their pick-up schedules. Find out if they have any special requirements. Make sure they let you know if they provide bins or if you’ll have to supply your own. Service providers will often work with you to meet your company’s individual recycling needs.

Learn what materials the various contractors will haul away and what they do with the materials they collect. Some recycling services only deal with certain types of items. For example, some companies only collect office paper. Once they collect the paper, they run it through an industrial shredder and send it off for cardboard repurposing.

Step 6 – Post the signs and the flash 

Have your recycling dream team start making signs and posters to visually communicate to the rest of the company that you’re starting a recycling program at your workplace. Put up signs that direct people to the proper recycling bins and inform the company what needs to go where. Light-hearted “reminder” posters – with cartoons or clever puns – are a great way to keep the recycling program in people’s minds and keep people enthusiastic about recycling at the workplace. 

Step 7 – Get to gettin’

Once you have all your key elements in place, all that’s left is to make sure people follow the workplace recycling protocols and toss their discards where they ought to go. Be sure to note what’s working and what isn’t throughout the course of your program. Improve what needs improving, and double down on what doesn’t. Get more bins if you need to, or move them to better places if you think that will help.

The steps really are that simple, and it shouldn’t take much time to get your program up and running once you’ve elected to start one. And with enthusiastic team members at the forefront of your campaign, your workplace recycling program should run itself.

Learn more about the importance of implementing a recycling program at your workplace with the Honoring Earth Day Through Corporate Sustainability workshop offered on Thriver providers. 

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