Ten Steps to Efficient Recycling at Work

Article excerpt

Starting a recycling program at work "isn't rocket science," says Sam Cole, community outreach coordinator at EcoCycle, a recycling nonprofit in Boulder, Colo. But it does take planning, cooperation, self-education, and monitoring.

For employees who want to change a firm's waste practices - or simply find out what practices are in place - where to begin?

Here are a few suggestions, culled from various waste-oriented nonprofit organizations:

Get support. "You need to have committed folks who are employees who want to [recycle and reduce waste], and then you need to have committed folks in the upper management," says Mark Ruzzin, community outreach director at EcoCyle.

Look for outside help. Often a local nonprofit, like the Boston- based WasteCap or the Boulder-based EcoCyle, is already set up to help businesses through just this process. Nationally, the EPA's WasteWise program can be a good place to start (www.epa.gov/ wastewise).

Identify the waste. Once you have top management behind you, you'll also need a waste assessment. What are you throwing away? What are you recycling? What could you recycle? Think creatively: office furniture, building materials, food waste, etc.

Identify the vendors. Once you know the types and volumes of materials you generate, call several vendors and compare costs and services. If you're in a multitenant building, talk with building management and try to get other tenants on board.

Form a "green team." Find several committed employees willing to sustain recycling and waste-reduction efforts and act as point people for employees with questions.

Buy recycled. This is often referred to as "closing the loop" in recycling jargon. For everything that's recycled, buyers need to be found for the recycled products. Try switching to post-consumer recycled paper, or remanufactured toner cartridges.

Reduce waste at the source. Does everything need to be printed out? Can you eliminate paper plates and styrofoam cups in your cafeteria?

Educate custodial staff and other employees. Make sure cleaning crews - which often have high turnover - know how to empty recycling bins. And tell other employees what the bins, which should be larger than trash cans and easily accessible, are meant for.

Organize special events. Try a bike-to-work day, or reward employees who recycle the most.

Remain vigilant. It's often several years after recycling infrastructure is put in place that things start slipping, experts say. …