How to Implement a Successful Recycling Program: A Guide for Business Owners

17th Feb 2021

Implementing a successful recycling program will not only help the environment, but it can also save your business a significant amount in waste collection.

Despite the benefits being so stark, many companies can struggle, especially those that naturally generate high amounts of waste, such as the retail or catering industry. It can be daunting but with this guide, you can reduce your waste, and your expenditure.

Conduct a waste audit

In order to create a recycling program, it stands to reason you need to know the volume and specifics of the waste your business generates.

Businesses in the catering industry for instance, will naturally generate a large amount of food waste during operation. Knowing the exact quantity and type – raw vs. cooked, baked goods, fruit and veg, etc. – can open up a lot of recycling options. If you’re throwing away a lot of tea bags, coffee grounds, fruit and similar; then composting is an excellent and cheap way to recycle these.

Similarly, you can look into donating your waste. Many local farms have food waste programs for livestock – and some will even collect it for you.

While that’s a fairly simple example, other industries can be much more complicated.

Retail can have a huge variety of waste, including hazardous or cumbersome material. So cataloguing and reviewing that waste will make reducing it much easier in the long run.

Set goals (realistic ones)

Though a large part of the successful implementation of a recycling policy will come from the top, getting the support of all employees will ensure its ultimate success.

So, start easy!

Setting achievable and manageable goals will create momentum for the bigger, structural changes. The break room is a great place to start – set a friendly competition to recycle X amount by Y time. Challenges between departments may also offer further incentives to employees – if you offer small prizes to boot, then you’re guaranteed to see improvement.

Repeating your waste audit will show the results in action and can allow you to announce your successes internally, demonstrating the important impact of your staff.

Training & internal communication

Ensuring clear internal communication is crucial for any successful recycling program. Rules should be clear and consistent across your site. Make sure the locations of recycling stations are in a clear and centralized location.

Ideally, you will want to keep these unchanged, but if you do need to relocate your recycling, make sure you alert everyone in the organisation!

Make sure you have a space for easy feedback, both from customers and employees. Without everyone’s support, any initiative will struggle to succeed.

One last point on training – consider appointing a recycling coordinator.

Someone responsible for creating a collection program, graphics, outreach and tracking progress will give the project the necessary focus and attention. Naturally, there is a time and money requirement to this and won’t be suitable for every business, but in the long term, the position will pay for itself.

Ergonomics – Designing your program

The use of high-impact and colourful graphics will help reinforce the message. Some areas and cities will have standardized colours for certain recycling – so stick with those.

Though we’ve touched on colours, there’s more to consider when designing your graphics.

For example, images over text are the key for optimizing recycling. Images of what should go in certain bins are clear and more likely to be read than a string of words. Following these guidelines will help ensure your message is acknowledged loud and clear.

Optimize your waste collection needs

Take a review of your waste hauling contracts. Are there any areas you can reduce costs?

The frequency of waste disposal is often an area where people overpay. By reducing the volume of your waste, you can cut down on these costs. For example, by using a cardboard baler, you can compact common sources of waste like cardboard to reduce how often you need waste collections.

Similarly, check your bins to see if they’re completely full when collected and if not, think about changing your collection cycle.

Get the jump on future recycling needs

The world of recycling has changed enormously and will undoubtedly continue to change. Oftentimes companies will implement large scale programs, only to change them a few years or even months down the line.

This can be avoided by future-proofing your program as much as you can.

Ensure you research whether there are any changes to waste collection in your area, either by the companies themselves or through law.

Many companies are moving from plastic, but often a simple material swap won’t address a customer’s concern of reducing litter or single-use packaging. Ensure all new packaging of products use recyclable material where possible.

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