How to Start a Recycling or Composting Program at Your Office

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With record high temperatures and the effects of climate change looming, each effort we make as a society towards sustainability becomes increasingly impactful. In our office spaces, we can create systems and implement solutions that preserve our natural resources. Creating a recycling and/or composting program is a great place to start!

We’re concerned about our planet at Spork Bytes. Whether that means providing reusable dishes and stemware for your event, or partnering with GoBox to bring reusable takeout containers for your next company meal, we are committed to finding ways to reduce waste, minimize climate change, and preserve our natural resources.

We know some of you may wonder if there are ways you can do more. As offices return to their regular routines, implementing a company recycling and composting program is one way to make an impact. It’s easier to do than you might think. Here are some ways to make it happen at your location.

Step 1: Get The Word Out

Before getting the momentum going, you should first get permission from your boss, HR, or any other leadership in your organization that will need to sign off on a project like this. While there are so many benefits to share, you can simply point out to whoever needs to say yes that recycling will save the company money! In addition, it will also improve employee morale and reduce the company’s carbon footprint.

Designate a point person who will coordinate all aspects of the program. Perhaps that’s you or a trusted colleague. Enlist a “green team” of coworkers who are just as excited as you are about the program and dedicated to ensuring its success. Make sure you get buy-in from your janitorial staff as well. Implementing a plan such as this would be nearly impossible to do without the help of others.

Stylish Office Recycling Set-Up by Inc. Magazine
Stylish Office Recycling Set-Up by Inc. Magazine

Step 2: Create an Action Plan

Once you have people on board to help you, create an action plan of how to make the program happen in your office. Here are some of the key things you’ll need to accomplish in this stage:

What will you recycle or compost?

Ideally, you’d be recycling everything, but that could be unrealistic and sometimes it’s best to start off with baby steps. Will you need to separate out your recyclables by material, or is single-stream recycling available in your area? Checking your city’s local regulations for more information on what materials are accepted and how these are collected is a great place to start.

How much waste do you have?

Consider conducting a waste audit to determine the volume of trash your office generates in a certain period. A quick way to do this would be to have your cleaning staff set aside one day’s trash for measuring rather than tossing it in the bin so you have an idea of what you’ll need.

Who will manage the program?

Most larger cities have numerous relationships with businesses and office buildings that provide recycling services. Coordinate a list of places to reach out to regarding your initiative to assess how your company will manage your recycling setup. If you have a small office, this may be as simple as collecting all the materials and driving them to the recycling facility. However, if your organization is large, you may need to find a hauling company to handle pickup duties. Your trash service provider or property management company may also offer recycling pickup. In Portland, Portland Disposal & Recycling provides this service. If you’re outside the city, you can visit recyclestuff.org for a list of providers in your area.

Person Setting Up Recycling System by Recycling Coach
Person Setting Up Recycling System by Recycling Coach

Where will you place your bins?

This may be one of the last things you’d think to worry about, but it’s one of the most critical. Place your bins too far away from your team members, and they may be tempted to toss their used coffee lids and water bottles in a trash can because it’s more convenient. Staffers are busy, and while they may want to do the right thing, if it’s challenging, it may not get done at all. To ensure proper usage, place the bins in a location that is practical and easy to spot visually.

Make sure there are recycling stations set up in communal areas, lunch rooms, and meeting spaces, or designate a central recycling station and encourage staff to bring their materials on a regular basis. Put recycling bins by the printer and in the kitchen. Put compost bins next to the trash cans that already exist so people can simply dispose of their items at one location.

Use bins that collect all your streams in one container, if possible. Make sure to use graphics on the bins that show which items can and cannot be recycled or composted. Making the program as easy to follow as possible is a key to ensuring the success of your initiative.

Look outside the basics.

We know the importance of recycling paper, plastic, and glass, but what about more heavy-duty items like electronics? Consider adding one or two days per year where employees can dispose of computer parts, cords, toner cartridges, and old phones they’re no longer using. You’ll need to bring on a specialized recycling company to handle this task, but it’s well worth adding to your efforts to go green! In Portland, Free Geek safely & securely refurbishes locally donated technology and gives it back to the community.

Employee Throwing Away Recycling in Office by Recycling Trash Systems
Employee Throwing Away Recycling in Office by Recycling Trash Systems

Step 3: Communicate and Generate Buzz

Once you’ve got the plan in place, the fun can begin!  Visually and virtually announce the start of the recycling program at your workplace. Put up signs that show people where the recycling bins are, and help show office workers what needs to go where. Instruct people on where they can go to shred confidential paper files before recycling them. Prepare to walk staff members through every step of the process - perhaps set up a lunch-and-learn or meeting to educate your coworkers on every step they need to follow.

You’ll have some employees that will be excited about recycling from the start. Others may not be as enthusiastic - look to bring those staff members on board with a morale booster like a pizza party or other company-sponsored treat (we have a variety of options that they’ll love :D ) once your office meets a weight or volume-based recycling goal. Your contractor can work with you to keep track of how many bins they haul away each week. Put up a board to track your progress in a common area to inspire your team to recycle more!

Recycling Bins in Modern Office Space by My Decorative
Recycling Bins in Modern Office Space by My Decorative

Step 4: Observe and Listen

All that’s left to do is monitor how things are going and optimize where you see fit to keep the program moving forward. Note what’s working and what needs to be improved - whether it’s changing bin sizes, adjusting locations, adding incentives for different department teams, or creating additional communications about your process and overall impact. If you performed a waste audit at the start of your program, consider doing another one a few months in to see what improvements have been made.

Make sure to keep the morale high by letting everyone know just how well they are doing. You could even announce statistics like how many trees you’ve saved per month just by recycling paper!

We are confident setting up a recycling program in your office is not as difficult as you may have thought. Kudos to you for taking the initiative! As a small business startup who works with other small businesses, Spork Bytes knows how big solutions can come from the hands of individuals who decide to make a difference. There’s no better time to start than right now!  And if you decide to make a catered office lunch part of your planning session or to reward your teams for a recycling job well done, our Account Managers would love to help you out by making sure everyone’s bellies are happy while doing good work. Get started with us today!

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