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September 2017

How to set up an office recycling scheme

Written by Nathalie Leblond
Environment and Green Hygiene

Did you know that 90% of office waste can be recycled? Learn easy tips and tricks on how you can recycle at the office.

I’m sure that if you’re the sort of person that’s interested in a hygiene blog, the chances are fairly good that you already recycle at home. You may have various reasons for doing so, but I’d like to think that the main reason people recycle is because they’re committed to minimising the huge environmental impact the human race is having on the planet.  

In case you needed any more convincing, here are 4 really great reasons why you should recycle. But, how many of us extend this thinking to our workplaces?

A typical office produces huge volumes of waste.  For example, an office with 100 people produces on average 20 bags of waste a week. This fills one 1,100L waste bin a week.  Over the course of a year, this equates to filling fifty 1,100L waste bins in a year, and over 90% of this office waste can be recycled!

With most workplaces doing their best to go green, an office recycling program is a good place to start the green agenda. In addition to the environmental reasons listed above, I can think of a few more reasons why an office recycling program is a good idea:

  • Eliminate pest nesting sites

Offices and workplaces generally create far more paper waste than the average household, and if not disposed of correctly, piles of paper are an extremely attractive nesting site for rodents. Prevent your office from experiencing a pest infestation by ensuring that paper waste is collected for recycling regularly. 
  • Eliminate pest food sources

Office canteens and kitchens may create far more food packaging waste than a residential kitchen, and if it is simply thrown into the rubbish it acts as an attractive food source for flies, cockroaches and rodents.  Implementing a recycling scheme which combines composting of organic food waste and the rinsing and recycling of food packaging will drastically decrease the amount of attractive food sources for pests.
  • “Feel good” factor

Recycling at work can boost morale and lower staff turnover, as employees see that the company takes environmental sustainability seriously.  Businesses who recycle and embrace a ‘green mandate’ have shown an increased ability to recruit and retain good employees .  Recycling can also increase individuals’ efforts at home, which can only be a good thing.

  • Getting started

Before you even consider setting up an office recycling system, it’s probably a good idea to educate your colleagues on exactly what can and can't be recycled. Here is a list of some of the common office materials that definitely CAN be recycled and those that can’t:

In the office kitchen:
Metal: cooldrink cans and tinned food cans, foil and foil packaging
Glass: cooldrink bottles and glass food jars such  as those containing mayo, jam etc
Plastic: Ice cream and milk containers, plastic bags and even cling-wrap. If you are uncertain, check the recycling logo.
NO: Dirty paper plates, cigarette butts, tissue and toilet paper, paper towels

In the office workspace:

Paper:  
YES: White office paper, magazines and books (as long as nothing is laminated), newspaper and cardboard (such as packing boxes).
NO: Sticky notes, carbon paper, foil-lined, wax-coated and laminated paper, wet paper or wet cardboard.


Once your colleagues are aware of what sorts of things can and can’t go into the recycling containers at work, make sure you avoid these 3 common mistakes that can derail a fledgling recycling initiative:

  • Making it difficult and/or time consuming for colleagues to recycle

    I think it’s safe to say that most human beings are inherently lazy, and if the recycling bin is further away than the dustbin, then into the dustbin that piece of paper will go.
    So make it easy for colleague to recycle by  ensuring that recycling bins are placed in convenient and accessible spots all around the office, but especially near the photocopier, at each desk, in the kitchen and in meeting and break rooms. It’s useful to include a picture of what can be disposed in the bin and a short, punchy label which provides practical guidelines for employees.

    Besides handy bins, another way to encourage employees to participate is consistent communication. Make sure every worker in the office is aware of the program and its goals. Nominating a champion to keep the initiative alive is also a good idea.
  • Not knowing what to do with your recyclables

    The bins are in place and colleagues are getting better about remembering to recycle, but have you got a strategy for what will happen to recyclable materials?

    One of the most important parts of the process is deciding how to collect and dispose of your  recyclables. Visit mywaste.co.za for collection programmes or buy-back centres in your area, or consider supporting a local school or charity’s recycling fundraising initiatives as your office recyclable paper could boost the tonnages they collect and increase the funds raised.
  • Not briefing your cleaning staff

    You don’t want to find that no-one briefed the cleaning staff and that they are mixing recyclables in with the general trash. Make sure everyone is on the same page with regard to what can be recycled, and where the recyclables are stored in between collection times.

If your office is doing anything else to encourage and implement recycling, please feel free to send us your suggestions and tips so that we can share them with our readers.

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Nathalie Leblond

Nathalie Leblond

Nathalie is the Category Manager at Rentokil Initial, and has worked in the hygiene and pest control industry for 12 years. Although after 12 years cockroaches still have the power to terrify her, she has learnt countless ways to defeat germs both in the workplace and at home. She is a passionate advocate for Global Handwash Day and the health benefits that can be derived from regular handwashing and hygiene practices. When not contributing to the Initial blog, Nathalie is writing press releases for sister businesses, Rentokil and Ambius. You can find her on LinkedIn.

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