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:

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.


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, and Zero Waste strategies 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 cleaning staff/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. Learn more about our training video for cleaning staff.

* Install clear instructions:

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

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 waste programs are working.  See this case study.

Photo: Nick Fewings, Unsplash

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