By John Brook, Office Kitten
Recycling is the most important part of waste management for a home or office to prevent landfills from getting bigger and bigger. Reducing the collective carbon footprint is possible if each individual participates. Offices tend to be impersonal places where employees may not think about what they throw away. Recycling needs to be as easy as leaves to a tree, so that everyone will do it. Here are 10 tips for encouraging employees to recycle waste in an office.
- Make it a group effort
A group of employees can join together to make a team that helps educate other employees about recycling, and introduces ways to make it easy. Some people are more environmentally savvy than others, and there will be two or three in an office who take recycling seriously and would probably love to encourage others to recycle.
- Audit waste production
The team can first perform a waste audit to determine what kind of waste a particular office generates. Most offices have paper in the form of office paper, newspaper, magazines and cardboard. Also, aluminum cans, plastic bottles and containers and printer cartridges. Depending on the industry and type of business, there will be unique items. The team can set goals for the office to recycle 100% of their waste in a month or a year.
- Provide waste-specific recycling bins
The first thing an office needs is waste bins for different kinds of waste. Plastic, paper, metal and glass should be separated. This can be all-in-one units with each compartment clearly marked or separate bins clearly marked. There are even small desk size bins for paper and plastic. It doesn’t need to be complicated.
- Locate bins strategically
Separate bins can be placed close to where the waste is generated. Paper receptacles should be near copiers, fax machines and printers. Bins for food containers such as glass, plastic and metal should be in break rooms or cafeterias. Bins for cardboard should be in shipping rooms.
- Create a cohesive policy on paper usage
Paper is approximately 40% of waste in most offices. The company should also buy recycled paper for printing. Always use both sides of a sheet of paper. Either print on both sides or use one side for handwritten notes. When the piece of paper is used up, put it in a receptacle only for paper. One ton of recycled paper saves 17 trees, 7,000 gallons of water, 3 cubic yards of landfill space and 380 gallons of oil.
- Recycle old computer hardware
Find a certified place in the locality where used or broken computers and computer parts can be given for recycling. Companies that recycle electronic parts are certified by the EPA to meet standards for responsible recycling. Also, contact the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation to properly dispose of batteries and cell phones. Many states have mandatory collection and recycling programs for electronics.
- Employ a specialist to pick up waste
There are recycling companies that will pickup waste that has been separated for a fee. They will give rebates on some of the collected materials. They will have the information on recycling computer parts and batteries. The team can arrange this. It takes 450 years to break down one plastic bottle. Recycled, 25 bottles can make one fleece jacket.
- Incite employee participation:
If the office recycles regularly, the expenses will reduce. A percentage of this savings could be passed on to the employees in a gift or office party. Custom printed golf shirts, tote bags or baseball caps, made from recycled material, make great gifts. They can have the company logo and a tag line that says, Zero Carbon Footprint.
- Point out the social benefit of an environmentally correct office:
An office culture of recycling will produce a sense of pride in the responsible actions of the employees. It is an easy way to feel that they are participating in something worthwhile that will sustain the environment for the future
- It’s going to take time:
Recycling is easy to do, but it may take getting used to for some. Old habits are hard to break, but education can help. Give the facts to the employees via email every week to convince them that recycling is in their best interest. It conserves natural resources such as water, timber and minerals. It reduces the amount of energy needed in product production. Since it reduces the use of wood and metal, it prevents loss of soil erosion due to logging and mining.
A well organised office will lend itself to a program of recycling. With knowledge and encouragement, employees will soon become accustomed to recycling; and not recycling will become unacceptable. Inform the entire office of the plan. Let the recycling team give tours of the new waste bins and how to use them. Employees need not feel forced into recycling, but they should see for themselves the benefit and want to participate.