Most people you speak with will agree that having a recycling program in their workplace would be a great idea — however not everyone has a plan for creating one. Sometimes the most difficult part in creating a recycling program is just answering the question, “Where do I start?”
Here then are some suggestions on how to create a recycling program:
Step 1: Select a recycling coordinator
Accountability is key — identify a coordinator who will be leading your efforts (maybe it is you!) Ideally this coordinator will be enthusiastic, well-organized, and will serve as a liaison between your facility, your custodial staff and waste hauler.
Step 2: Decide what to collect and recycle
A natural place to start would be to collect paper waste in your office — did you know that paper makes up an average of 37.5 percent of the waste stream? You may also want to collect aluminum cans, glass bottles, plastic bottles, batteries, light bulbs and ink jet/toner cartridges. Whatever you decide to collect, make sure to make it easy for building occupants to recycle the selected items so you can maximize participation.
Step 3: Choose a collection method
To mix or not to mix — that is the question. Once you decide what recyclables to collect, now you need to decide whether to have separate recycling containers for each recyclable, or if you will be able to collect all recyclables in one container (to be sorted at the recycling facility).
A “source separation” method will require more bins and effort to set up, but may result in higher market value for the recyclables as well as a higher environmental awareness amongst occupants.
A “comingled” or “single source” method will typically have a higher participation rate, but may result in lower market value for recyclables and a higher potential for contamination. There is no “right” or “wrong” method — it is just important to choose the right method for your facility.
Step 4: Choose a hauling option
Now that you are collecting recyclables, how do you get them to a facility to actually be recycled? There are a variety of options including:
Organization and communication is essential to an effective recycling program. It is important to set up clearly-labeled collection bins in locations where they will be used by building occupants. You may want to consider placing recycling containers in the following areas:
Once your recycling program is in place, monitor its progress to evaluate cost-effectiveness, employee participation and environmental impact.
It is also helpful to communicate results to building occupants — people are more likely to participate if they can see that their actions are having an impact.
Step 7: Promote your program through education
Proper education is essential to the long-term success of your recycling program.
You can view a more detailed version of this list, as well as additional information about recycling at earth911.org.
Douglas Kot is the executive director of the San Diego Green Building Council, which is the leading local resource for green building information and expertise.