How To Make Your Office Recycle In 7 Steps
Recycling is becoming more and more commonplace, but it still isn't everywhere: According to the Environmental Protection Agency, we only recycle around 35 percent of our daily waste, when we could be recycling much more — and that includes our in workplaces. If your workplace doesn't have a system in place for recycling, you — yes, you! — can make your office recycle. Setting up recycling in your office a) looks amazing on your résumé, b) is great for the planet, and c) is a lot easier than you think.
If you work in an office that hasn't taken this eco-friendly step yet because there just isn't a plan in place, you can step up and be the one to suggest it makes it happen. Many office-based workplaces produce reams of paper, plastic and technological waste that could conceivably go to a recycling plant, and it seems silly for them to go to landfill for no good reason. Talk to your office manager, rope in co-workers if you like, and form a recycling-friendly team that can transform your workplace. Or go it alone. Either way, it's worth it: you'll make your office greener, likely help its efficiency and cost-effectiveness, and score big points, both with your boss and with the earth.
1. Do Your Research
This is crucial: what does your office do that can be recycled, and what would it mean if you did? Conducting a "waste audit," a sort of overview of what gets thrown away when, can be a bit of a big ask if you're working with more than five other people, but there might be data behind how much your business produces in waste every year, and what recycling it already has in place. Why is recycling good for this business in particular? Why should you use company time and resources to make it happen? Get a killer presentation going (or just a casual email, depending on your workplace vibe).
If you're the boss, you can't skip this step; you still need to field employee questions about why you're doing this and what you think the benefits would be. "Did you know that recycling programs make whole cities more efficient?" is a good thing to throw into the conversation, no matter where you are in the office hierarchy.
2. Identify What Recyclable Products You Use
WRAP, a recycling consultancy, points out that offices are some of the most dominant users of paper products in the economy. It's estimated by the EPA that the average office worker in the U.S. can use up to 10,000 sheets of paper a year, and may generate up to two pounds of paper a day. If your office is paperless, though, there are likely still recyclable products around: file folders, shipping supplies like cardboard, electrical components, televisions and ink cartridges are all potentially recyclable materials. Heck, your 2 p.m. La Croix is recyclable, as is the plastic container your desk salad came in. Based on what your company does and how it functions, it'll have its own individual recycling profile. Figure out what that is and what you'll need to focus on.
3. Look Up Collections
Once you've figured out what can be recycled, figure out how it's going to get from your office to a recycling plant. You're probably going to need to research this with your local council; what waste collections happen when, what does it take to set up a recycling collection, and (importantly) what do local recycling places accept? It's no good setting up a special bin for PET plastics if the only available recycling facility can't handle them.
4. Start With The Biggest Recyclable And Work Up
This tip comes from the recycling experts. "The best recycling systems start small and build on sound foundations over time to become exemplary. As the saying goes — Rome wasn’t built in a day!" say the people behind Sustainable Business Toolkit, an advisory service for companies trying to go green. They recommend starting with "the most visible and highest volume waste product in the office" — usually paper — and over time expanding to include more recyclables as habits like bins, collections, and sustainable practices make more of an impact on the office.
5. Train Everybody In What Needs To Be Done
This can't just be your lone crusade. Recycling company DS Smith's guide to introducing recycling to your office highlights the importance of getting everybody involved. "You need to get your teams onboard," they explain. "Everyone from the boardroom to the shop floor can make a difference to your recycling rate. Encourage your managers to get involved, rolling out the changes in team meetings."
The key is to embed it in the way the company does things, so that eventually people do it without thinking too much about it. Every Can Counts, a recycling campaign based around cans, says that "company culture" needs to absorb recycling as one of its goals. And keeping everybody up to date means far less likelihood of the wrong can in the wrong bin.
6. Use More Sustainable Business Practises
It's no good just recycling if the rest of your office is completely un-green. The Sustainable Business Toolkit recommends that you do as much re-using and sustainable work as possible, like creating a policy that people print double-sided rather than single-sided as a default. Other tips? Using mugs instead of paper or cardboard cups, buying recycled paper stock instead of virgin, looking up rechargeable battery possibilities for in-house tech, and not throwing away anything that could be repurposed or reused.
7. Get Bins — And Proper Labels
It seems that one of the biggest ways to cut down on non-green waste behavior is a pretty simple one: don't keep trashcans at your desk. If people have to get up to throw away their trash in a central area, and there's a recycling bin right there, they're more likely to use it. Standard psychology. Getting the right bins, labelling them and making people use them is a big part of recycling practice, but DS Smith notes that they need to be positioned properly, where people normally use or throw away recyclable material (by the photocopier, in the kitchen), so they can integrate easily into people's everyday habits.
And it should go without saying, but find out who's in charge of general waste management in your office — the janitorial staff, a particular co-worker — and make sure they're in the loop. If they're transporting that stuff to the bins that go out for collection, they need to know all the details.