How to set up a recycling program at your company

Step 1: Get management support

Get management's support for your recycling program to ensure it will be successful. Highlight the importance of recycling and show your management how a recycling program will benefit your company by:

Saving money through avoided disposal costs
Improving the public image of your company by saving natural resources
Improving employee morale–everyone wants to 'do the right thing'–recycle!
Show management the "waste problem" in your company and how much material could be recycled instead of disposed; support this by presenting your company's current garbage disposal practices and costs. Develop a preliminary plan to present to management to demonstrate how establishing a recycling program would be both feasible and beneficial.

Step 2: Determine what materials to target for recycling

Look at your company's waste stream for recyclable material. Walk through different areas of your facility and observe where and how materials are generated in your business. The most commonly targeted materials are paper, cardboard, can and bottles, but don't overlook pallets, packing material, and office equipment. If you find materials that aren't recyclable, try to find ways to prevent them from being thrown away in the first place!

Start at a feasible level. Focus your recycling program on the largest volume of waste materials being thrown away. For example, if you work in an office, start by setting up a program to recycle paper and cardboard. After your initial program is working well, add recycling programs for other materials in phases. Build on your successes over time.

Step 3: Find a recycling company to collect the materials

Based on the materials you decide to target for recycling, ask your garbage hauler if they will collect and recycle these items, check our Where to Recycle Database for an appropriate recycler or call the RecyleWorks Hotline at 1–888–442–2666 for help. Don't forget that you can use different vendors for different materials. If one vendor won't pick up all your recyclables, you can use multiple recyclers.

Step 4: Decide where to place recycling collection containers

Recycling containers should be placed wherever materials are generated. Commonly, this means at each work station and at centralized locations throughout your facility, such as next to copiers and printers or in break rooms. A good rule to follow is this: wherever there's a garbage bin, place a recycling container next to it. Prominently label the containers to avoid confusion.

Decide how materials will be moved out of the facility for pick–up by the recycler. It is very important to involve your custodial service in this process. Getting their input and buy–in is crucial to the success of your program. Point out that, in most offices, after a paper and cardboard recycling program has been implemented, there is very little "garbage" remaining.

There are a variety of options for collecting material in a facility. These are some methods that other companies currently use:

Custodians collect garbage and recyclables from each work station, either daily or on alternate days.
Employees take recyclables to centralized location, and custodians take garbage from work station.
Custodians pick up recyclables and employees empty their own garbage.
Decide what option works best for your employees and custodial service that is also within any contractual or union agreements.

Step 5: Educate the employees

Train everyone on your new recycling program! Write a recycling kick–off memo or email all employees to educate them about your new recycling program. Education can also be achieved through motivational posters and progress reports. Make sure your recycling program is part of new employees' orientation training. Don't forget to educate the custodial staff as well.

Provide incentives and reward participation. Generate enthusiasm for your recycling program by distributing promotional items to those who participate. Reminders about the program should be sent out periodically to maintain participation.

Download the Sample Announcement Memo in Word document (20 KB ).

Step 6: Monitor the program

Monitor your recycling program and highlight positive results in your company newsletter or email your employees to let them know about program successes.

Monitoring the recycling program has important benefits. First, it can help you determine where improvements, if any, are needed. Also, it helps show the program's success, and thus build momentum among upper management and employees. In most cases, precision is not necessary and reasonable estimates of recycled material can be very useful for gauging progress.

There are several ways to gather data to measure your program's success. Ask for tonnage or volume reports from your recycler(s) and garbage hauler and solicit input from employees. People using the program will offer useful recommendations and ideas for improvement.

Quantify the success of the program as amount of resources saved, pollution prevented, or dollars saved for the company. Remember that for every ton of paper your company recycles, 17 trees are saved. Some companies list the number of trees their company has saved on an annual basis in their newsletter or email.

Every time a ton of paper is recycled, you've helped save 17 trees, 7000 gallons of water, 4 barrels of oil, and you've reduced air pollution by 60 pounds.

Sample memos:

Download the Reminder Memo in Word document (22 KB ).

Download the Achievement Memo in Word document (20 KB ).

Step 7: Promote other waste reduction ideas in your company

Promote waste prevention and re–use of materials and encourage the purchase of recycled–content supplies.


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