Since the EPA estimates that 40 percent of all waste is generated in the workplace, company recycling programs are a big deal. If the recycling bins in your office are suspiciously empty while the trash cans continue to overflow, use the following tips to help make your company program really work.  

1. Step into a leadership role.

Every program needs a leader to step up and take charge. Why can’t that person be you? If you’re passionate about the environment and have a little time each month to spend on the cause, this is a great way to hone your leadership skills while also doing something good for the planet.

Your first task as leader should be to conduct an assessment. Go around to high-traffic areas – the kitchen or break room, the copier area, the entrance to the office – and make sure recycling bins are accessible and easily identifiable.

While you’re at it, check to see if the bins are being used properly (or at all). This tends to be the biggest issue in most offices. People don’t know what goes where so they take the easy route — the trash can.

So, your next task is to label the bins as well as the area around them. Write down exactly what items should be put in each bin (such as “white office paper”) and any special instructions (such as “remove staples”) so you don’t end up with contamination. Attach this label to each bin and to the wall next to it.

2. Plan special events.

Most company recycling programs take care of the basics – paper, aluminum cans and glass bottles. But there are plenty of other materials that can be recycled – electronics, toner and old office equipment. Organize a semi-annual event to collect these items. Encourage employees to have fun finding them around the office and to feel free to bring them from home. Make getting rid of clutter easy and convenient – something everyone will appreciate!

Call your recycler and ask if it accepts these materials. You want to find a company that also offers pickup service since the load may be heavy given the materials.

Also, make sure everyone knows in advance when this event is taking place so they can gather the materials to turn in at the event instead of simply throwing them away.

3. Educate the staff.

Keep your co-workers motivated by educating them on why recycling matters. If you have a company newsletter, ask to contribute a regular article or “quick tip” about the environment.

It also helps to keep the staff informed about the impact of their contributions. Send regular company-wide e-mails or office memos to thank them for supporting the recycling program and let them know how many pounds of waste they kept out of the landfill each month. (Your recycling company can help provide statistics.)

4. Build enthusiasm.

Nothing helps keep up the energy like a little healthy competition. Consider creating a game or contest between departments to see who can generate the least amount of trash, and come up with innovative ways to track progress and reward those who participate. Publicize the winners so others around the company can see the success.

5. Grow the program.

With a recycling program in place, you can help expand the program to other businesses in your building or area. Consolidating your efforts may help reduce hauling and processing fees.

Recycling providers like GP Harmon can help start pilot programs at large companies, in commercial buildings or in school systems. Connect with them to discuss opportunities for expansion around your community.

Additionally, you can build on the success of your recycling program to initiate other waste-reduction programs in your company. For example, why not encourage printing documents on both sides? Encourage management to purchase "green" office supplies. Or perhaps you can help get motion sensors installed on the lights. There are all kinds of easy, cost-effective ways to reduce the environmental impact of your business.

Remember that consumers love to do business with environmentally-friendly companies, so the efforts you’re making also can translate to great PR for your organization. Top-level executives may be more interested in the financial implications of these programs, so be prepared to share the facts and how recycling programs can help benefit the bottom line.

If your company doesn’t yet have a recycling program, contact GP Harmon today to discuss strategies for starting one. A minimal amount of effort and investment can have a significant impact on your company and the environment. Step up to the challenge and be a leader. This is a great way to make a name for yourself as someone who takes initiative and is willing to work for what’s right. Get started today!