The three Rs — reduce, reuse and recycle — have become an important part of our culture.
Recycling paper products, plastic and cardboard are the first things you think of, but there is a host of other materials that can be refabricated into useful, non-virgin goods.
A recent survey of cleaning professionals, distributors and facility managers conducted by CFR Corporation revealed that 70 percent of those questioned believe recycling is personally important to them, their employers and to sustainability in general.
Despite how important recycling is to the wellbeing of the plant and the sustainable operation of a facility, those in charge often do not know the best way to go about encouraging the practice.
Facilities most frequently recycle cardboard and packaging materials, with paper products coming in at a close second.
But, there are some less obvious things that can also be reduced, reused and recycled.
"Avenues exist for recycling nearly everything," states Karen Hamel, technical education manager for the New Pig Corporation. "Items such as fluorescent lights, batteries, electronics, spent absorbents and wipes can and should all be recycled."
Establishing An Office Recycling Program
The trouble is that many facilities attempt to tackle the complexities of a recycling program on their own.
If the responsibility to coordinate everyone's recycling efforts falls to one person, the likelihood of your program thriving, growing and succeeding increase exponentially.
"Written guidelines outline who is responsible, what is being recycled, where recyclable items are being collected and why this is important to the facility and the community," notes Hamel.
Sixty percent of those surveyed by CFR indicated that they do not have anyone specifically in charge of recycling in their facilities.
According to Doug Berjer, product manager for CFR Corporation, the first step in establishing a recycling program in your office, no matter its size, is simply surveying the trash.
First, determine what is going into the waste stream and what can be recycled.
Ask your trash collecting company what they will and will not recycle.
From there, adhere to the following five tips:
1. Make a top-down decision
The most effective recycling programs are those deemed necessary by top management; staffs tend to respond more strongly when the message is coming from the chief executive officer (CEO).
2. Appoint a recycling coordinator
Select one person to be in charge of the recycling program; this person not only oversees the program, but also champions sustainability in general and recycling in particular.
3. Start small
Initially, suggesting 20 different things to recycle might be overwhelming for office personnel; start with a few things and grow from there.
4. Build on the no-brainers
The recycling no-brainers are paper, plastic bottles and aluminum cans.
Estimates are that office workers go through an average of three beverage containers a day.
From here, add ink cartridges, glass, packaging materials, old computers, light bulbs, ballasts and other electronics.
5. Recycle water
Not only are consumables recyclable, but so are natural resources such as water.
Place containers on roofs or cisterns around the facility to gather rainwater to water office plants and other landscaping.
Keys To Success
Constant vigilance is needed, as overenthusiastic recyclers can discard non-recyclable items into specific bins, rendering the otherwise recyclable freight useless.
In order to stop or minimize wrong bin recycling, follow these easy tips:
Make sure recycling bins are color-coded and clearly marked.
Blue bins should be used for one type of recycling, green for another, etc.
And, just like color-coding with microfiber cloths for infection control, keep the color choices consistent throughout the facility.
Sometimes, selecting bins of different shapes and sizes for each type of recyclable item overcomes any problem.
If there is a single-stream recycling program in place, make sure the bins have enough capacity.
Make recycling bins location specific and, going back to the importance of color, make sure they are clearly marked.
Bins for collecting metals and cardboard are best kept in a warehouse, while bins for plastic and paper make more sense in an office area or hallway.
Educate staff members regarding the importance of placing recyclable objects in the correct containers.
While many facilities have recycling bins, few emphasize the importance of placing items in the proper receptacles.
This is less of a concern for facilities with single-stream varieties, but all involved with a recycling program should be educated on best recycling practices and how their efforts — whether correct, incorrect, malicious or well-intended — can contribute to the success or failure of an initiative.
With a solid recycling program, companies can reduce their carbon footprint and simultaneously save money.
Consistent communication and encouragement will foster good recycling practices. Establish goals, track the progress of the program and keep workers apprised of the results.
As outcomes improve, let everyone know and reward those deemed top recyclers with prizes or other accolades.
Competition breeds success, and whether you are recycling in a small office setting or a large school district, planet Earth is banking on the mutual triumph of everyone in their efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle.