Tips On How To Get Your Boss To Start An Office Recycling Program


It can be very frustrating and rather distracting watching piles of paper and heaps of milk cartons going in the trash can every day at work. Before you give in to temptation and start removing the recyclable items from the bins to take them to the recycling depot yourself, do try having a chat to your boss. You might find that it’s easier than you thought to persuade him to set up a recycling program.
It’s just that, well, they’ve been waiting for someone – you – to give recycling the push it needs.

The key is to plan things well and really do your homework before you even bring up the topic – you want to make it really easy for your boss to say yes.

Have an answer for every objection or question your boss might have:

“Start a recycling program? And why would we want to do that?”

So you’ve got two, or maybe three, angles that you can use. The one you’re probably most interested in is the earth-saving one. And, yes, be sure to bring this up. Presumably your boss knows that the earth needs our help – but it might help to list the many benefits of recycling to the earth and to humanity.

  • It cuts down on the amount of waste sent to landfills and incinerators.
  • It reduces gas emissions (because few new products are needed)
  • It helps create jobs in the recycling industries
  • Saves energy, water, minerals and trees

And throw in some convincing stats:

  • In 1960, Americans recycled 6.4% of their waste, by 2009 it was up to 25% and in 2013 it was 34.3% (source and source).
  • Americans generated about 254 million tons of municipal solid waste (i.e. trash) in 2013, which is around 4.40 pounds per person per day, and, of this, recycled or composted 87.2 million tons.
  • The recycling and composting that took place in the US in 2013 prevented the release of about 186 million metric tons of carbon dioxide – “equivalent to taking over 39 million cars off the road for the year” (source).

If you haven’t already got him hooked, or at least feeling guilty, then it’s time to throw in the PR angle.

Consumers are increasingly attracted to companies that are socially and environmentally responsible … and so are staff.

Recycling can be a very visible way of telling consumers and staff that your company is environmentally responsible – and if management cares about the environment, they’re likely to care about the customers and staff too.

You could always throw in a social element too by starting something like this Bread Tags for Wheelchairs project in your area.

“You know that we can’t afford to spend money on this.”

Costs might actually be in your favour, so do some research before you talk to your boss. If you’re paying for refuse removal, compare the cost of paying a recycling organisation – it just might be cheaper. And many of the recycling companies do junk removal – old office furniture, old computers – as well as recycling. If you can team up with another company in the area and share the costs, all the better. You could also combine the recycling idea with some basic energy-saving practices, such as turning off lights and computers, and using rechargeable batteries – and this, of course, will have direct cost-saving implications for the company.

“That’ all very well but we don’t have the time to organise it.”

Make sure you’ve thought through the practicalities, and have some suggestions ready to make it as easy as possible for everyone – particularly your boss. Remember, too, that many office recycling programs take a while to take off. Present a plan to your boss, thinking about the following, but leaving the details to be decided on with the team.

Someone needs to lead the program

You may want to put your hand up for the job, or suggest working together with someone from a different department.

You need to get the buy-in of the other staff, and possibly clients (depending on your industry)

It might be a good idea to arrange a “greening” staff meeting before you go ahead with practicalities. There are sure to be other staff members who are also keen to get this going, and they might have ideas, contacts and energy to offer. The program is far more likely to be successful if interested staff have a chance to contribute their ideas and be part of the planning.

Decide on short-term and long-term goals

As with any new program, take it a step at a time. But decide where you want to be 6 months from now, and a year from now. Maybe you’ll start by simply putting a box next to each printer for one-sided paper that can be re-used. The next step might be to put paper recycling boxes in every room. Eventually, your green revolution might lead to composting (which can, by the way, be done indoors), solar power, energy-efficient heating and more!

Look into storage and transport

Decide whether you’ll get the recycling collected, or drop it off at a depot – some places ask you to sort it out, and at some places they’ll do the sorting for you. Make sure there’s somewhere to keep the recycled goods neatly until they can be taken away.

Get your facts straight

Find out what can and can’t be recycled – bearing in mind that this will depend on where you’re taking the goods. For example, cardboard contaminated by food (e.g. a pizza box) is usually not recyclable. Some plastic is recyclable (the harder plastics), and some isn’t (plastic bags). Plastic-coated cardboard cartons (that milk and juice often come in) are recyclable, but you’ll need to find out where they can be processed. Electronics can be recycled, but you might need to take those somewhere different too.

Consider getting an expert in

It can be useful to employ an environmental consultant to look at all the processes and buildings in your company and help you to see how you can operate in a more environmentally friendly way. So get some contact details and prices ready to show your boss.

Once you’ve got your ideas straight, and perhaps put together a written plan, get your timing right. Arrange a meeting at a low-stress time. Get ready to empathise with your boss’ concerns, but to gently persuade him that there are more reasons to recycle, than there are not to recycle.

Good luck!

About the Author Staff Writer

Our writers come from all over the world, but one thing unites them - their passion for sustainability.

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1 comment
Greta James says December 13, 2021

I have noticed that the tenants in the office building I work in throw a lot of cardboard in the dumpster. If we could put something together, I would love to lead a recycling program to help prevent all this waste. Thank you for pointing out that anyone could volunteer to lead a program like this. I think if I volunteered for this my boss would be more likely to consider a recycling program.

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