Tips for Increasing Employee Recycling Rates

A great way to increase your company’s diversion rates is by increasing employee recycling rates. Here are some proven suggestions for implementing behavior change at your facility to increase participation in your company’s recycling program.

1. Increase Employee Awareness  

The first way to increase participation is by making sure your employees know that you have a recycling program. Do not assume that recycling containers and signage placed throughout your facilities speak for themselves. Go a step further by referencing your recycling program during company meets, or including a section about your recycling program within employee training materials. If your facility has high turnover, you may need to reference your program on a regular basis.

One successful tool companies have used for this is a recycling reference board. These are informational boards that companies place in central areas. They usually include information about the program, including the types of recycling containers available and examples for each recycling commodity. You can also use this as a space for employees to post any questions they have about the program or whether or not something is recyclable.

2. Make Recycling Part Of Your Company Culture 

The more people see recycling as an expected behavior in the work place, the more likely they are to participate.

3. Place Recycling Containers by Landfill Containers 

There are 2 reasons for placing landfill and recycling containers next to each other:

  1. The first reason being that, if an employee happens upon a refuse container without a recycling container, they are less likely to exert the effort to find the recycling container. By placing the two containers together, choosing to recycle becomes as easy as throwing the same item in the landfill container.
  2. The second reason your containers should be together is to help reduce contamination of your recycling stream. If an employee has easier access to recycling stations than to refuse containers, they may start throwing refuse into the recycling from convenience. This could have devastating effects on your recycling program as regular contamination can cause vendors to refuse recycling loads.

That being said, some companies choose to remove landfill containers completely from their facilities. While this option should help increase your recycling rates, it must be monitored closely to insure contamination levels do not increase for your recyclables.

4. Use Color Coding 

Colors are a great tool for creating psychological associations that affect behavior change. Therefore, if you have the resources available, try color coding your recycling as much as possible. Some ways to use color coding include:

  • Designate one color for all your recycling containers and another for all your refuse containers. For instance, your recycling containers could all be green and your refuse containers could all be grey. Using these colors to consistently differentiate between recycling and refuse will help employees quickly distinguish between the two.
  • If you have multiple recycling containers for different types of materials or commodities, use different colors to label each commodity type. For instance, if you have containers for collecting mixed paper, give them all a red label; if you have containers for LDPE plastic bags, give them all a purple label; etc. The specific color you choose for each material is irrelevant as long as you use that color consistently throughout your facility.

5. Place Signage On Or Near Containers 

The clearer you distinguish between each type of container, the better. Labeling your containers will help cut down on possible confusion regarding what each employees should place in each container.

6. Use Specific Examples For Each Commodity Type  

Employees are not necessarily used to categorizing their waste. They may be confused about whether or not specific items are recyclable and which container to use for what. To assist with clarification, try including specific examples of items employees encounter on a daily basis for each recyclable commodity. For instance, if your employees produce a lot of paper label backing waste, and your recycling service provider is willing to accept this material with mixed paper, list “paper label backing” as an example on your mixed paper container.

If you are unsure what examples to use, consider reaching out to your recycling service provider for assistance creating your labels.

7. Include Pictures 

Take the last suggestion a step further by providing images of recyclable examples on your container signage. This will help draw employees’ attention to the sign and will reduce any confusion about terminology. For instance, one group of employees may refer to an item as one thing while another group of employees may refer to it as another. Including an image of the items next to their name provides a more universally recognizable reference tool.

8. Celebrate Success

Positivity can do a lot for increasing employee enthusiasm. Therefore, any success stories you can share with employees about the great work they are doing by recycling will help reinforce this behavior and encourage others. This can come in the form of rewarding individuals for recycling, talking about improvements to diversion numbers, or mentioning any positive environmental impacts your recycling program has had.

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