The United States generates 254 million tons of trash per year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: 2013 Fact Sheet. Additionally, the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery’s 2008 Statewide Waste Characterization Study says 75 percent of waste is generated in commercial facilities. That’s a lot of trash for commercial cleaning and facility management professionals to manage.
Recycling is one of the best ways to have a positive impact on the world in which we live and preserve its natural resources for future generations. Recycling not only avoids sending waste to landfills, but it can also reduce a facility’s overall hauling costs.
Transitioning how you manage waste in your facility can be complex and difficult to deploy. Oftentimes, it is challenging to know where to begin. We recommend a four-step process to implement an effective recycling system in your facility.
1. Conduct a Waste Audit
Collect, separate, and weigh each waste stream to understand how much is recycled versus how much is sent to the landfill. Common waste streams include paper, plastic, glass, cans, organic waste, and landfill.
Contact your recycling service company to get answers to important questions. For example:
- How will your recycling fees differ from your landfill/trash fees?
- How often will the recycling service company pick up recycling?
- What materials does your recycling service company collect for recycling?
Helpful Hint: If your recycling service company does not pick up a specific stream, search the Earth911.com database for additional recycling service companies.
Contact the contractor who handles waste pickup for answers to important questions. For example:
- Does your current contract align with the collection needed for your new recycling system? If not, can your service provider modify the contract, and what would be the new cost?
- Does the contractor have the mobility and waste bin products needed to collect recyclables and keep the streams and trash separated?
Confirm your contractor can service the new recycling system, as poor collection practices can negatively impact tenant and patron trust.
2. Create a Recycling Plan
Assess your facility to determine the right products for the unique waste and recycling needs. For example, this could include multiple recycling receptacles that work together as a single system to promote recycling
3. Deploy the New Recycling Plan
Order the necessary products per the completed waste audit, ensuring the right products are provided to handle all of the necessary waste streams that have been identified.
Remove old products and place new products in high-traffic locations during the evening to minimize disruption to patrons. These locations might include lobbies, break rooms, office spaces, and meeting rooms.
4. Educate Building Occupants
Schedule a meeting with patrons and janitorial staff to review your new recycling system.
Send an email to your tenants and patrons announcing your new program.
Hang posters in common areas and above new receptacles to inform building occupants.
By understanding your recycling needs, choosing the right products, and training staff and patrons on their use, you can implement an effective recycling system that is easy to execute and easy to use.