December 20, 2014

How to Start a Business Recycling Program

One of the easiest and cheapest ways to be an eco-friendlier business is often overlooked: Recycling.  Chances are your business sends more items to the landfill than it has to. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, about 75% of solid waste thrown away is recyclable. The good news, though, is there’s a boom in the number of local recyclers and types of waste they’ll accept.

trash recycle bins

Before you start trying to recycle more (or at all) at your business, give some thought to how you’ll do it effectively. Here are four tips to getting a successful office recycling program underway:

1. Know your trash. Do you know what’s in your trash bins? Sure, it might be dirty work, but it’s worth figuring out what types of things your business tosses out – whether it’s white paper, plastic bottles or bags or paint cans. You can then better determine what part of your trash is eligible for recycling. Some items may even be required to be recycled under your state’s laws.

2. Contact your local recycler. Review your curbside recycler’s rules and the items and materials it accepts – assuming you have curbside recycling at your business. Many recyclers now pick up a wider range of plastics, cloth and linens and small appliances. Get a full list of accepted items and keep it handy.  (Some city recycling programs are even starting to pick up business’s food scraps for composting.) Also keep in mind that some curbside collection programs don’t automatically stop at businesses – so it’s worth contacting them to find out whether they will.

3. Consider alternatives. Even if there’s no curbside collection for, say, old batteries and light bulbs, that doesn’t mean they aren’t recyclable. Check out Earth911.com to find drop-off recycling centers in your area and get lists of accepted items. (Some charge fees.) Several major retailers including Whole Foods, Home Depot, and Best Buy will recycle the types of products they sell – everything from plastic food containers to CFL light bulbs to old computers.

4. Make it easy. How easy you make recycling in your office will affect whether employees pitch in. Consider putting paper recycling bins under every employee’s desk and near areas with lots of paper waste, such as by copy machines and printers. Put plastic bottle collections in the break room.  Clearly mark the bins so employees know exactly what should be put in them. Another possible motivation trick: Put trash cans farther out of reach.

Do you recycle at your business? How much of an effort do you make to reduce your trash waste?


Recycle Photo via Shutterstock

2 Comments ▼

Kelly Spors


Kelly Spors Kelly Spors is a former small-business and entrepreneurship reporter and blogger for The Wall Street Journal who has also written for Yahoo!, Entrepreneur, NFIB's MyBusiness magazine and The New York Times. Kelly is now a freelance editor and writer based in Minneapolis and has previously managed communications for an environmental non-profit that helps businesses find ways to be greener.

2 Reactions

  1. Great tips, thanks! It’s a great idea to personalize recycling to your offices needs (excess paper, ink cartridges etc).

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