When most organisation’s think about going green, the first thing that comes to mind is recycling.
Because waste is highly visible and is relatively easy to deal with.
The thing is most organisations do a pretty shoddy job with their office recycling initiatives. This is such a shame and wasted opportunity.
Done correctly, a comprehensive office recycling initiate can help an organisation send zero to landfill.
This article provides 7 top tips for reducing your waste and implementing an effective recycling system that will obliterate your waste and put you on the path to sending nothing to landfill.
A typical office produces huge volumes of waste.
For example, an office of 100 people produces on average 20 bags of waste a week. This fills one 1,100L waste bin a week
This is equivalent to filling fifty 1,100L waste bins in a year!! The crazy thing is that over 90% of office waste can be recycled.
Most office waste consists of paper. The highest impact action that you can take to reduce your waste is to reduce paper consumption.
The two main actions you can take to reduce paper are to setup all printers on double-side (i.e. duplex printing). This simple action could halve paper consumption.
The second step is more technical and requires capital investment to setup, but is worth exploring if you employ more than 50 staff. It is called ‘pull printing’ or ‘FollowMe printing’ and essentially relies on a user activating a print job at the printer.
The reason it works so well is that over 30% of print jobs sent to a printer are never collected (i.e. they become waste!). Pull printing can reduce printing volumes by at least 30%.
If this sounds like an option to you then speak to your printer supplier who will no doubt be able to provide you with more details.
Paper reduction strategies offer a great opportunity to reduce waste but there are also other areas where you can reduce or reuse resources.
Take time to look at other articles in your waste stream (stationery, toners, cardboard, furniture, IT equipment etc.) and explore ways to reduce consumption or reuse materials.
Once you have exhausted your options for reduction and reuse it is then time to explore recycling options.
The best recycling systems start small and build on sound foundations over time to become exemplary. As the saying goes – Rome wasn’t built in a day!
Always start with paper and card recycling as it is usually the most visible and highest volume waste product in the office.
Over time try to expand the recycling system to other waste materials – glass, plastics, fluorescent light bulbs, batteries, toners, CDs, food waste, furniture, IT equipment etc.).
We all know that offices use a lot of recyclable materials but not all offices have designated places to recycle. As you introduce a new recycling option to the office make sure that the option is well communicated to staff and that the recycling facility is highly visible.
A great option is available from Schaefer Systems International who provide a large number of different types of bins and containers to put your recyclable materials in for your office.
Either way we recommend sourcing bins that are affordable, look good and are highly visible.
Separate waste bins for each recycling option is key as it makes sure that waste streams do not become contaminated and can be recycled with ease.
Use colour coded bins which are prominently displayed in the office.
It is useful to include a picture of what can be disposed in the bin and a short, punchy label which provides practical guidelines for employees
Once you have a strong recycling system in place it is imperative that you remove as many general waste units – in particular personal bins under each staff member’s desk.
The key is to have a small number of centrally located general waste bins and a much higher ratio of recycling bins available around the office.
Initially, this may result in some backlash from employees but as long as the benefits of the new recycling system are communicated (i.e. waste reduction potential and cost savings) along with an easy and accessible system, then you should be able to overcome all obstacles.
If you find that adoption rates of the new recycling system are low then it is important that employees are engaged early.
An awareness day which provides engaging graphics and appeals to employee’s understanding, beliefs and habits around recycling and environmental issues is key (read Getting employee engagement right to find out how to do this).
Focus on the financial and environmental costs associated with waste production and highlight the potential savings if everyone was on board.
Even with a comprehensive recycling system, you will still have residual general waste which gets sent to landfill every week.
To eliminate this waste you could look at the option of sending it to be incinerated. There are a number of specialist waste providers who offer this service.
Research shows that the impacts from incineration are outweighed by the benefits in terms of electricity production and reduced landfill impacts.
A zero-to-landfill office provides a very powerful and compelling environmental commitment which the business can use to engage customers (win/retain business) and inspire staff (attain and retain talent).
We hope this article provides you with the tools and motivation to explore recycling in your office.
Our writers come from all over the world, but one thing unites them - their passion for sustainability.