A good place to start to green your workplace is to do a review of your current waste and recycling to check:
- What systems you have in place;
- Whether those systems are working as they should; and
- What other opportunities exist for diverting material form your garbage bins into the recycling bins.
Background to Recycling at Work
In Australia, over 90% of households have access to kerbside recycling and over 90% of those households recycle at least some of the products they use in the home.
Lately, more and more workplaces have set up recycling programs for a range of products. Research carried out for Planet Ark by Pollinate and sponsored by Bartercard shows that most small to medium enterprises now recycle at least some of the paper and cardboard they use.
There is a surprisingly long list of materials that can be recycled from the workplace. These include:
- Office paper,
- Newsprint, magazines, cardboard, phonebooks,
- Glass and plastic bottles and jars,
- Aluminium and steel cans,
- E-waste including computers, printers, printer cartridges, mobiles, batteries,
- Compact and normal fluorescent light globes,
- Food scraps and garden waste.
The success of recycling systems depends upon everyone knowing what they have to do. So when you're doing a review look at elements like:
- Is it absolutely clear what is being collected, where it should go and what state it should be in (eg should it be clean)?
- How is the system promoted?
- How clear are the roles and responsibilities of everyone involved?
- Who is ultimately responsible for making sure everything is running properly?
It's a good idea to check with contractors, like cleaners, that they know what is expected of them. There are numerous stories of businesses that have set up great recycling systems, that have been undermined because no one told the contracted cleaners what they should be doing.
Doing a waste audit is a great starting point for addressing the waste sent from your workplace to landfill. There are professional organisations that can do full and comprehensive audits of all the material coming and going out of your building(s). However, more modest audits can also be effective. This could be as easy as selecting a couple of garbage bins and observing the amount of recyclables in them.
One of the biggest advantages of doing an audit is that you'll have a clearer idea of the current situation, which will make it much easier to set up systems for addressing it. It'll also provide you with a baseline to measure your future successes against. Additionally, audits can look at energy and water use.
- Work in a team to make the job easier and to spread out the workload.
- Ensure you have the right people involved, for example if there is a building manager that works with the contractors it's important to have them involved in any review and if you're aiming to reduce energy use get someone from IT on the team. Use the review to develop an action plan for addressing the issues you've identified.
- Setting up recycling systems and implementing other strategies for greening your workplace take time - they don't necessarily take much work or effort but it can take time to arrange for a contractor to begin collecting materials, you might need to wait for a good time to engage staff (at a monthly team meeting for example) and then you'll need to give the system a little time to see whether it's working well.
- Choosing the right recycler is important for both environmental and legal reasons. Ensuring your waste is recycled correctly and legally can be as easy as asking a recycler the right questions. Check out our guide for ‘Choosing the Right Recycler’.
The BusinessRecycling website makes it easier to recycle at work with a comprehensive list of recyclers, a checklist to help choose the right recycler, free signage, case studies, information and more.