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Recycling Toolkit | At Work

Recycling Toolkit

Recycling at Work

Revised On: Nov. 27, 2023 - 2:38 p.m.

Reduce and Recycle to Save

Reducing the amount of waste sent to the landfill can save your business money and, in some circumstances, become a revenue stream to help cover certain costs. There are various ways businesses can reduce waste and recycling costs, including:

  • Promoting trash reduction efforts to allow for a smaller dumpster, lowering costs and reducing the frequency of trash pick-ups
  • Creating partnerships with neighboring businesses to share containers and split collection costs, if applicable
  • Working with trash vendors to negotiate waste contracts and reduce collection costs

Starting a Recycling Program at the Office

Recycling programs should be created in collaboration with management. Designate a "champion" for the program, someone to lead the way to get management buy-in and see the program through. For those businesses within an office complex, also work with building or strip mall management when getting started. Not every business is large enough to take on a new recycling program themselves, so involve the proper stakeholders when developing a new program.

Spend some time looking around the office to see what materials are generated, the amounts of those materials, and create a map marking where materials are created. Build your program around high-volume items that are easy to recycle and slowly add more items to the program. To get a better grasp of what is being thrown away, perform a Waste Audit. An audit can be a “top of can” observation of what is going in trash bins, or you may consider recruiting consultants, municipalities and other organizations to help, such as:

  • City of Chandler — Solid Waste staff can assist multi-family communities and businesses by conducting in-house waste audits to determine specific materials and needs for incorporating recycling onsite | Learn More >
  • WasteWise — EPA’s WasteWise encourages organizations and businesses to achieve sustainability and reduce select industrial wastes. WasteWise is part of EPA’s sustainable materials management efforts, which promote the use and reuse of materials more productively over their entire lifecycles | Learn More >

Following are common office materials eligible for diversion:

  • Paper (newspaper, books, magazines, files/folders, manuals, etc.)
  • Binders
  • Envelopes
  • Cardboard
  • Office supplies (writing instruments, electronics, etc.)
  • Beverage containers (aluminum, tin, plastics 1 – 7, glass)
  • Kitchen waste (food scraps, coffee grounds, etc.)
  • Paper towels (not commonly recycled, but can usually be placed with kitchen waste for composting)
  • Pallets
  • Scrap metal
  • Plastic packaging (containers, film, bags, etc.)
  • Miscellaneous items (food wrappers, dental hygiene products, etc.)

Collection: Now that you’ve identified materials for recycling, choose your service method and provider. You can either work with your current waste hauler to create a recycling program or assign the collection duties to an employee (recycling coordinator) who would be able to collect recyclables and bring them to a local drop-off facility (many free options). If you are in a building with several organizations, consider recruiting those companies to share the responsibility of transporting recyclables. Be sure to also include management in the process and custodial contractors so they can help identify contamination issues.

Communication: Employee engagement is vital to a successful program. Continually keep staff informed about proper recycling, contamination issues and any changes to the program. 

Ideas for employee education:

  • Online Recycling Guide (internal)
  • New employee training materials
  • Simple signage
  • Monthly update email
  • Standard operating procedures
  • Videos
  • Peer recycling competitions
  • Staff meeting announcements/reminders

For more ideas, view Keep America Beautiful's recycling program improvement resources | Learn More >

Committment: Obtain management’s support and create a company policy that provides a clear vision of waste reduction and recycling goals, including buying recycled products. Creating a demand for recycled products provides incentive for recycling companies to turn more recyclables into new products.

More office waste-reduction ideas:

  • Providing reusable cups for meetings
  • Setting printers' default to double-sided printing 
  • Utilizing technology rather than printing

Setting up the program involves:

  • Getting policy approval
  • Either establishing a contract with a waste hauler or organizing a plan to drop off recyclables
  • Acquiring collection bins
  • Announcing the new program to all employees

More implementation ideas:

  • Designating a recycling coordinator
  • Setting up an employee incentive program
  • Introducing the program at staff meetings, posting information in break rooms or cafeterias, emailing employees and keeping recycling information readily available to staff
  • Letting employees know how they are doing

Track recycling program efforts so you can manage and celebrate waste diversion numbers:

  • Measuring volume collected
  • Monitoring high use areas (full bins discourage continued recycling)
  • Tracking money saved
  • Company goal achievements

Strive to continuously improve as you move forward with the program by seeking feedback on what is working and what is not and making adjustments as necessary.

Other Waste Reduction Resources for Businesses

  • EPA Waste Reduction Model (WARM) — Helps track and volunarily report greenhouse gas emissions reductions. WARM calculates and totals GHG emissions of baseline and alternative waste management practices — source reduction, recycling, anaerobic digestion, combustion, composting and landfilling | Learn More >
  • Voluntary Environmental Stewardship Program (VESP) — Identifies and rewards organizations that have a good history of compliance, and try to go above and beyond legal requirements. ADEQ strives to complement existing programs with new tools and strategies that not only protect people and the environment, but also recognize opportunities for reducing cost and encouraging technological innovation | Learn More >
  • Educational Resources (Videos & Posters) | View >