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Business Recycling - A Step by Step Guide

Planning and developing your recycling program can be hard work... but it's work that pays off. Here are some simple tips to help start a recycling program at your business:

  • Recycling can reduce the amount of waste your company sends to the landfill, reducing the amount you pay to have the waste picked up by your trash hauler.
  • Recycling reduces waste deposited in landfills and prolongs the life of our local landfills and conserves natural resources.
  • Less energy is needed to manufacture products from recycled material than from virgin natural resources.
  • In Fort Collins, local ordinances ban the landfill disposal of cardboard  and electronics, which are often discarded by businesses. Effective recycling programs ensure you won't be in violation of these ordinances.

Before you start, get support from management for a recycling program. Find out their requirements. Are they OK with slight additional costs? Can you commit time to setting up and running the program? If your business rents space and trash is included in rent, you'll need to work with the property manager to get permission to start a recycling program.

To run an effective business recycling program, you will need a program coordinator, and depending on the size of your company, a few recycling champions. The coordinator should have a commitment to recycling, organizational experience and good communication skills. Program champions should have a good rapport with staff and a thorough understanding of recycling.

The coordinator is typically responsible for selecting a waste hauler (usually the same company that hauls your trash), setting up the collection system, getting the employees involved, and tracking the progress of the program.

Champions ensure recycling containers are relatively free of non-recyclable trash and notify the coordinator if they overflow. They also encourage employees to participate in the program.

The City of Fort Collins offers on-site waste assessments and education at no charge through its Waste Reduction & Assistance Program but if you'd like to complete an assessment yourself, you'll first need to familiarize yourself with locally recyclable materials. Once you feel comfortable distinguishing items that can be recycled, go through your business and look in every trash can. Take a photo of the contents of each trash can for easy tracking and reminders. Estimate the amount of material in the trash cans that can be recycled, and what areas generate especially large amounts of recyclables.

Its also helpful to talk with co-workers about the type of trash or recyclables they generate and if current recycling bins are convenient for them. Trash and recycle bins should be as close to the source of the waste generation as possible (for example, a recycle bin adjacent to a copy machine/printer rather than in the next room). Make note of what recycle bin sizes should be placed in which locations.

Next, monitor your trash dumpster for a few weeks to gauge your trash service needs. Find out when your trash dumpster is serviced and check it the night before it is serviced. Document if the dumpster is half full, full or overflowing, and then determine what percentage of material in the dumpster is recyclable. This will help you know if your business currently has more trash service than is needed and how much your trash is likely to decrease once you start a recycling program

Keep in mind that even if your current service level is appropriate, once you start a recycling program, you'll end up with more space in the trash bin (since materials formerly in the trash are being recycled instead). It's important to decrease your trash service frequency or the size of your trash dumpster if possible, since it will save money on your bill and may offset the cost of the recycling service. Ask the company that currently provides your trash service for a quote for the amount of recycling and trash service you believe your business needs and compare the quote to other trash haulers.

Keep in mind that if your business has periods of high trash generation, you can always increase your trash service during those times or request an extra pick-up. You don't have to subscribe to extra trash service all the time if you only fill your dumpster occasionally.

Once you've chosen a hauler, it's time to plan your recycling program. Your program has a greater chance of long-term success if you make recycling easy. Look back at the information from your waste assessment to determine where recycle bins are needed.

Here are a few best practices to keep in mind:

  • Whenever possible, place a recycling bin and a trash bin next to each other.
  • Place recycling guidelines on bins and label trash bins as "trash" or "landfill". Photo-based, simple recycling guidelines tend to be most effective.
  • If you're purchasing new bins, purchase uniform bins for the entire office. Blue-colored bins are typically associated with recycling. You can even get recycle bins that already have the chasing arrows recycle sign on them.
  • Place your bins where waste is generated. Identify locations where trash or recyclables are regularly generated and place bins as close to that location as reasonable.
  • Place a kitchen-size recycle bin in the break room.
  • Place a large recycle bin adjacent to copy machines and printers.

Since most the material disposed of at an employee's desk is recyclable (office paper and recyclable food containers), you can convert desk trash cans to recycle bins and offer smaller bins for trash.

It's a good idea to research the current custodial contracts that operate in your building, since custodians are likely important for your program. Most office recycling programs work best when integrated with existing custodial operations -- custodians simply collect recyclables from bins inside the office and empty them into the recycling container outside. Some companies use an alternating collection system in which the custodians collect the recyclables one night and the trash the next. Existing custodial contracts may determine some program decisions initially, but many businesses add the responsibility of picking up the recyclables into the custodian's contract when it is up for renewal.

Sorting trash from recyclables should be done by employees, not custodians -- however, custodians should report problem areas for the program coordinator.

Now it's time to get your fellow employees on board. Promotion and education are crucial to a successful recycling program. Employees are more likely to participate if they're well-informed about the program and its benefits.

Consider sending a kick-off memo or email to all employees highlighting the benefits of recycling, describing the program, and explaining the separation and collection procedures and always remember to educate new employees about the recycling program.

Continual reminders for new and existing employees will help the program succeed. One way to reinforce the recycling habit is to send follow-up emails to employees. Consider including how much your business has recycled, any cost savings, and where those savings are going. Also let them know about problems/solutions for program improvement.

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For additional information, or to schedule an on-site assessment, please contact Caroline Mitchell, environmental planner, at 970-221-6288, or via email at Y21pdGNoZWxsQGZjZ292LmNvbQ==.