Adding Office Recycling to Zero Waste Programs

Often, one of the last hurdles to achieving Zero Waste to Landfill at manufacturing and distribution facilities is diverting waste from office spaces.  Unlike traditional manufacturing waste, (usually clean, consistent material that can be collected and sorted relatively easily) office waste more closely resembles post-consumer, residential waste. Instead of collecting many of one item for recycling, you get few of many items. For those looking to  implement an office recycling program at their facility, here are 4 steps to get started.

Step 1: Pick Your Streams

The first step in beginning an office recycling program is selecting what streams to collect. This means choosing not only what materials you plan to recycle, but also how you will separate these materials. Here are a few common streams we see in office recycling programs:

Choosing Recycling Streams
Image Source: “Jollanda/Shutterstock”

Sorted Office Waste (SOW) – SOW is one of the most common recycling streams for offices. It primarily consists of white and colored office paper, and sometimes includes label backing. Items often mistakenly placed with this stream are plastic lined paper, labels, and paper towels; these materials should not go with SOW.

Bottles and Cans – Bottles and cans are well known recyclable items, and for ease of collection, are often grouped together. Be sure to empty and rinse all drink containers before adding them to your recycling stream.

Commingled Plastics – If your office spaces produce more than the occasional plastic bottle for waste, you might consider having a commingled plastics stream for all miscellaneous plastic items. Be sure to rinse any food containers prior to adding them to your recycling.

Cardboard – While some recycling programs allow for cardboard in the paper stream, it’s best to keep cardboard separate when possible.

How you recycle materials in other areas of your facility may affect what recycling streams you should collect in your office spaces. Check with your recycling service provider to see what streams you should collect for office recycling.


Step 2: Pick Your Bins

Recycling Bin Options
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Once you’ve selected your recycling streams, it’s time to choose collection containers. Whether you want bins for desk-side collection, break rooms, or hallway areas, it’s best to make sure you have at least one recycling container by every trash can. Keeping trash and recycling bins grouped together not only allows people the option to recycle whenever they go to throw something away, it also helps reduce the chances of contamination from rubbish being placed in recycling containers. We have also seen success with programs that eliminate desk side containers and instead only offer larger bins in centralized spaces.

Step 3: Engage Employees

Recycling Signage

Employee participation is key when implementing any recycling program at your work place. Here are a few ideas to engage employees in your program:

Use Signage – Help employees identify what materials to place in each recycling container by placing signs on or near recycling bins.

Color Code – Use color coding and images to identify different recycling containers.

Announce Changes During Meetings – As with any procedure change, try to have a meeting or send out announcements whenever you make changes to your recycling program.

For more ideas on engaging employees in your office recycling program, check out our blog post: “Tips for Increasing Employee Recycling Rates.”

Step 4: Monitor Progress

Zero Waste to Landfill DataTracking

Implementing a recycling program is one thing; making sure it’s successful is another. To insure the success of your office recycling program, be sure to continually check bins to note any misplaced materials or contaminants. You can also work with your recycling service provider to track recycling weights over time and see how your office recycling program is impacting your overall Zero Waste to Landfill goals.

It’s important to note that not all recycling service providers are equipped to handle office recycling programs. Check with your recycler before planning to add office recycling to your Zero Waste to Landfill program. For more ideas on starting an office recycling program at your manufacturing or distribution facility, contact us today.