If you don't have one yet, implementing a recycling program in your building is a great New Year's resolution. Hundreds of pieces of trash are being used and thrown out in your building every day, from sheets of paper and empty ink cartridges to plastic utensils and napkins. With all the responsibilities you have to deal with on a daily basis as a building manager, it's easy to forget the larger impact this tossed trash has on your wallet and the world.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans created 254 million tons of trash in 2013 and recycled only about 34 percent of it. Making the effort to recycle pays off, though: The 87.2 million tons of material that were reused or composted saved 186 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere, which is equivalent to taking more than 39 million cars off the road for a whole year.
Creating and implementing a building-wide recycling program may seem daunting, but it doesn't have to be a difficult process. Follow the four steps below to create a program for your building and begin 2016 on an eco-conscious foot.
1. Perform a waste assessment
A recycling program tailored to the specific needs and requirements of your office will be the most effective, and have the best chance for sticking in the long run. The Susquehanna County Solid Waste and Recycling Department in Pennsylvania recommended conducting a waste assessment as the first step toward creating a recycling program. On an average day, walk through your building, making note of the areas where there are high levels of waste. These will most likely include office areas, food service areas, public areas and restrooms. Note what types of waste are being discarded, such as paper products, bottles, newspapers or cardboard. Think about where most of the waste is already being discarded, and where convenient locations for recycling receptacles would be. Some cities and counties, like Boulder, Colorado, offer free or reduced-rate waste audits, which determine your main types of waste and the money you would save from a recycling program and can be helpful in designing you program.
2. Determine transfer methods
After you conduct your assessment, you need to figure out the logistics of your recycling program. Select an area of your building, like the basement or near the loading docks, where you can establish your central collection area. The Honolulu Department of Environmental Services suggested ensuring that the central collection area is located near freight elevators and contains enough bins to hold your amount of waste products. While it's possible that you and your staff can handle bringing the collected waste to your town's recycling center, it will most likely be easier and more efficient to hire a private recycling collection contractor to take care of this. When talking with a refuse hauler or contractor, the Honolulu Department of Environmental Services recommended asking questions like:
- If you're picking up trash and recyclables, what will be the net savings in my disposal costs?
- Do you pick up on schedule or on call? If on schedule, how often? If on call, how much lead time is needed?
- Are you willing to sign a long-term agreement? (A one-year minimum is recommended.)
- What is the allowable level of contamination? (Mixing of non-recyclables with recyclables.)
3. Keep it simple
You want to make it as easy as possible for your building tenants and staff to recycle. A recycling receptacle excessively divided into ultra-specific sections will only confuse and frustrate people, discouraging them from recycling. The Honolulu Department of Environmental Services advised making it "as simple and easy to recycle as it is to throw away." Place the recycling receptacles where people frequent or typically have waste, such as near copy machines, printing stations and receiving departments. However, make sure you're not overloading the building with receptacles, as the large amount of time it takes to empty and transfer their contents can hurt the effectiveness of the program. Also, make sure that the recycling bins are clearly marked differently than the regular trash cans.
4. Inform and evaluate
A recycling program is useless if no one knows about it! Create a document simply and clearly outlining the plan and the responsibilities of each employee or tenant. The Colorado Association for Recycling recommended holding information sessions on the recycling program, which you can make more enticing and fun by including free pizza or ice cream. And make sure that your janitorial staff is well-trained in the new recycling procedure. It can be helpful to appoint a recycling coordinator that will oversee the program and the transfer and collection of the materials.
Above all, keep your recycling program clear, simple and convenient. With these steps, your building will help create a greener and cleaner world.