Great Forest in Environmental Leader's Insider Knowledge Reports

Lessons Learned from Corporate Envrionmental, Sustainability and Energy Decision-Makers.

Implementing a Centralized Recycling Collection System, 2013 Report

Great Forest works with corporate clients to divert as much as 50,000 tons of material from landfills daily. We find that in many cases, businesses can easily increase recycling rates by centralizing waste and recycling collection points on typical office floors.

A simple pilot of this centralized system demonstrated measureable results. We worked with a large financial services firm to quantify the success of this program across five floors of one of their commercial buildings in NYC. The office floors had a traditional two-bin recycling set up. Each desk had two bins – a small black bin for trash and a blue bin for paper. There were also central bins for paper, bins for trash, and bins for bottles and cans in pantries.

The first thing we did was to conduct a compliance evaluation of the existing program (to see how the bins were being used) and a material content review (to see how much recyclables were in the trash and vice versa).

Next, the centralized program was implemented. All blue and black deskside bins were removed (about 1000 in total across the five floors). Central recycling stations were set-up in select locations throughout each floor. Each recycling station included a bin for trash, a bin for paper, and a bin for bottles/cans. Signage for these central stations were clear, visible and color coded.

Employees were informed of the change, and cleaning staff was trained on new collection procedures. We then conducted a follow-up compliance evaluation and material content review to see if the centralized collection program improved recycling as expected.

We found the percentage of recyclables in trash dropped by 75 percent with the centralized collection system.

Percentage of recyclables in trash:
Traditional Recycling Program (with deskside bins): 30 percent
Centralized Collection Pilot (without deskside bins): 7 percent

Compliance (how employees use bins) also increased: 25 percent increase in correct use of trash bins, and 5 percent increase in correct use of paper bins.

By centralizing collection points for waste and recyclables, this financial firm ended up capturing more recyclables than they were with the traditional recycling set-up. This centralized system
works because it makes people get up (literally) and think about what they are throwing away. With deskside bins, busy employees were not paying as much attention to which bins they were discarding items into.

We have worked with other corporate clients to implement central collection systems. Each time we see the centralized system implemented, we find there is initial employee pushback with the removal of deskside bins. However, as with any new program,
employees get used to the new system, especially when they learn that their efforts are really working.

Additional benefits to the centralized collection system includes a
reduction in labor for collection of trash and recyclables (cleaning staff no longer need to spend time emptying bins across the floors), and a significant reduction in the use of small bin liners (saving 1000 small liners a day).

(see full 2013 report pdf , Great Forest entry on Page 124)

Increasing Recycling Through Competition, 2012 Report

We conducted a recycling challenge with a single tenant that occupies six floors at a commercial office building. The goal was to increase employee compliance with the building’s recycling program through education, visibility and awareness. The challenge exceeded our expectations.

We set a baseline by tracking the amount of trash and recyclables generated from each floor for three months. Once the floor-by floor challenge began, we continued tracking, and also conducted spot checks of employee desk-side trash cans to see the level of employee compliance.

We combined the volumes of materials with the compliance observations into an overall recycling score. Each department nominated ‘Green Ambassadors’ to champion and educate employees about the competition. At the end of each month employees were provided with the results.

At the end of the competition there were significant increases in the recycling score of every single floor. The only prize offered was recognition.The key to making this challenge a success was continual feedback to employees on how their floor was doing, combined with active engagement and support from upper management.

The tenant is so excited about this effort that they plan to continue spot checks on a monthly basis on their own and will profile employees who are doing well.

(see full 2012 report pdf ,  Great Forest entry on Page 71)

Composting in an Urban Area, 2011 Report

Composting in an urban area can be difficult especially in a city like New York, where there are no industrial compost facili1es and many logistical challenges. But it can be done successfully and with great benefit, especially for establishments like restaurants and hotels that generate a large percentage
of food waste.

We conducted a pilot compost program for a hotel with multiple food service areas located in a multi‐use building in New York City. The first challenge we faced was the issue of space – there was not enough room in the building’s loading dock to store food waste separated for compost. Many buildings in New York City have this space issue, which also makes composting challenging. We overcame this by working with the hotel to find a place in their facility to store the compost bins until the daily pick‐up.

The program was rolled out in one of the hotel’s five main kitchen prep areas. We first tried to use existing containers, designating select bins for compost and labeling them with appropriate stickers. However, even with training, kitchen staff continued to have difficulty identifying the correct bins to use in the busy prep area. To solve this problem, we purchased green compost containers that stood out from the regular garbage bins. This worked successfully and staff began separating compostable materials and garbage with close to 100% accuracy.

With one kitchen composting, the hotel is diverting about 5% of its wet waste stream. When the program eventually expands to all five kitchens, the hotel is expected to divert up to 75% of its wet waste stream. This will potentially boost the hotel’s overall recycling ratio from the current 20% to about 80%.

(see full 2011 report pdf , Great Forest entry on Page 60)

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