Sustainability 101

How to Succeed In Recycling (In 3 Steps)

In order to reap the many benefits of recycling, you must succeed in recycling. Here’s how to win in recycling, in 3 steps:

1) Reduce Contamination, Maintain Value

When items like liquids, non-recyclable materials, and soiled recyclables are placed in recycling bins, entire loads of recycling may become contaminated and will be treated as trash.

When the recycling stream is contaminated, the otherwise recyclable materials lose their value. You end up paying the extra costs to dispose of contaminated recyclables, most likely in a landfill.

Holding the line on contamination is crucial to improving and increasing recycling. Here’s how to reduce contamination and maintain the value of your recycling.

2) Educate

Recycling is a team effort.

To make sure only clean recyclables are placed in the recycling stream, everyone involved must understand what can be recycled and how to recycle right.

As waste disposal costs increase, a focus on waste reduction and recycling education will be increasingly important to your bottom line.

Ensure all employees, tenants, janitorial teams, and any other stakeholders understand their responsibility.

– Educate all employees, tenants and stakeholders:

Make sure they know how your waste program works. This includes instructions on:

  • How to avoid contamination (emptying and rinsing out food containers, and making sure everything is kept dry).
  • Proper separation (using the proper designated bins for each type of recyclables in a dual-stream recycling system).
  • How to avoid wishful recycling (tossing items into the recycling bin that you hope or wish can be recycled.) Wishful recycling may not only contaminate your recyclables and cause them to lose value, but it may also damage recycling equipment. “Wish-cycling” items include PPE, plastic bags, hangers and more.

– Train janitorial crews…

on proper handling of waste and recycling, and how to prevent contamination. Mistakes by janitorial crews can negate all the effort your staff and tenants put into recycling.

– Install clear instructions:

Effective placement of clear recycling signage and standardized recycling bins labels are part of the solution.

3) Conduct A Waste Audit

Along with other crucial data points, waste audits provide a data-driven picture of contamination.

A waste audit can provide a snapshot of missed opportunities, current waste diversion levels, potential diversion, and how effectively (or not) your recycling programs are working. Take a look at these two case studies:

Prepare For A Zero Waste Future

With rising waste costs and increasing regulations, one of the best long term solutions is to adopt zero waste strategies.

The key thing to remember is that going Zero Waste does not mean producing no waste at all. Reduction is the key goal of Zero Waste, and that means less waste and more effective recycling coupled with more reuse and resource efficiency, all with the ultimate goal of closing that loop.

Moving towards Zero Waste is very achievable for businesses. Here’s how to move towards Zero Waste in 3 steps.


Photo: Nick Fewings, Unsplash

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