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Sustainability

Diversify Your Recycling Efforts

September 19, 2010
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There is a long held notion that recycling pertains strictly to plastic, cardboard and other paper products.

This, however, is about as far away from the truth as a Mark McGwire Supreme Court testimony.

"Avenues exist for recycling nearly everything," states Karen Hamel, technical education manager for the New Pig Corporation. "Recycling paper, plastic and aluminum are great first steps that can be taken by any facility. Other items that are routinely used in facilities — like fluorescent lights, batteries, electronics, spent absorbents and wipes — should all be recycled as well."

Recycle To Promote Sustainability

Many items that end up in a facility''s garbage — and eventually a landfill — are potentially toxic or contain potentially toxic components.

This, coupled with the fact that many items used by custodial professionals are difficult to recycle without proper assistance, tends to discourage the practice.

However, it is important to note that many companies and organizations exist to ensure that items are properly disposed of at the appropriate recycling facilities.

According to Aaron Griffith, marketing project manager for the Air Cycle Corporation, there are recycling programs available for any amount of waste — from bulk recycling pickups for thousands of spent light bulbs to small, prepaid mail recycling containers for a few pounds of used batteries.

Get The Word Out

Simply knowing that recycling is an option and that various services are available is not enough; guidelines specifying all aspects of recycling are necessary.

Not only do guidelines allow for participation on the part of all staff, they make a recycling program run more efficiently and with fewer hiccups.

"Well-written guidelines are not left open to interpretation — they will 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.

Strategically placed signage can serve as a reminder that certain products used by custodial professionals — and other staff and building occupants — can be recycled and diverted from the waste stream.

"Building awareness to the issues and educating those within the organization to simply ''do the right thing'' and recycle is one step that needs to be taken," proclaims Derek Wardwell, corporate marketing coordinator for the Armor Group.

To increase the rate at which items are recycled at a facility, one should:

  • Explain the benefits of recycling to staff and other building occupants

  • Show workers and building occupants how much can be saved — both monetarily and in trash from landfills

  • Allow all employees to develop the recycling program

  • Create incentives for employees and building occupants who recycle.

The ''Cradle-to-cradle'' Mindset

Lifecycle or "cradle-to-cradle" thinking is the practice of waste-free, efficient production.

It is no longer sufficient to manufacture products with high levels of recycled content — a more comprehensive approach in which products are designed to reduce environmental impacts from the start is necessary.

"The post-consumer use aspect of waste management has traditionally been considered beyond the manufacturer''s direct control and therefore, out of scope," says Lisa Morden, global sustainability leader for Kimberly-Clark Professional. "However, manufacturers are increasingly considering this question as they and their customers seek ways to reduce their environmental footprint."

Wardwell adds that manufacturers who embrace this mindset and produce products that can be reused, recycled or composted instead of being disposed of and placed in landfills start a chain reaction of environmental responsibility.

"When you think about it, the options are endless as to what can be recycled or composted," concludes Wardwell.

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