For some companies, it’s easy to create a recycling program with a laissez-faire approach and hope for the best while calling it a success. However, to truly have an effective waste and recycling program that makes an impact, companies must be more dynamic—adjusting recycling programs to meet new needs as they arise, such as business expansion, unexpected materials being introduced into the waste stream, and new employees joining the team.
Knowing this, you might be wondering: How can my company create a recycling program that is effective and evergreen? Check out a few tips below that your business can implement to ensure a successful recycling program, increase recycling rates, and improve cost savings--No matter what curveballs are thrown your way!
How To Ensure Your Recycling Program Remains Evergreen
1. Focus on recycling education and outreach
One of the most effective ways to build support for your recycling program is by making education a top priority. Educational programs are essential in providing employees with the information, context, and tools they need to recycle correctly. Doing so helps to increase the employee’s understanding of your program and its nuances, which improves their participation and helps cut waste costs through recycling more.
When focusing on recycling education, it is important to consider both current, participatory recyclers and non-recyclers. We all know recycling can be confusing by nature, and even the most advanced recyclers can use relevant reminders and updates. When educating non-recyclers, you may need to develop educational materials that appeal to a wide audience, including foundational information about the importance of recycling and the impact it can have on a business or community. Taking this extra step to create educational resources for non-recyclers helps those that have not participated in recycling before gain the knowledge they need to contribute in the future.
Here’s a quick example of the importance of inclusivity in recycling education, as some people may want to recycle, but do not have the necessary knowledge to do so correctly. An EPA case study highlights this idea using the City of Charlotte Solid Waste Services, who launched a program called Meta Un Gol Reciclando: A three-month recycling campaign aimed at increasing recycling in Charlotte’s Hispanic/Latino community, which had lower recycling rates than other populations. By addressing language barriers in their program and finding a cause that appealed to non-recyclers, the pilot outreach campaign resulted in a 12 percent increase in recycling rates in just three months!
While educational tactics will vary from business to business, try scheduling recycling training sessions with each department, or with your organization as a whole, to discuss progress, communicate program updates, and share recycling best practices. Providing educational training will ensure your workers have a clear understanding of how the program works and will likely increase overall participation. Another educational tip to consider is adding a recycling information section to your employee handbook and include this training as part of your new-hire orientation process. Lastly, in addition to training sessions, adding signage, informational memos, and posters to your educational efforts can also serve as reminders to current recyclers while helping motivate non-recyclers to participate!
2. Create a “Green Team”!
Any business aiming to excel in its recycling program needs a group of dedicated individuals to take initiative. Creating a “Green Team” or Eco-Ambassador Program is a great way to include a small group of people whose goals are to enact organizational change, positively impact internal recycling initiatives, and improve the environment as a whole. Once you get started and start to measure your program, you will likely see a quantifiable difference. In just five years, Ingersoll Rand’s Green Team’s initiatives decreased their energy usage by 80 billion BTUs, saved nearly 6 million gallons of water, and avoided sending more than 6 million pounds of waste to landfill! They achieved this level of impact by simply taking the initiative, setting goals, and galvanizing a group of sustainability-minded employees.
If your organization were to follow suit, these green team individuals should be responsible for all things recycling in your organization, including communications, educational efforts, sustainability events, training sessions, and more. When organizing the team, try to include key stakeholders from a variety of departments as well as those who can regularly attend meetings, are knowledgeable and enthusiastic about sustainability, and are open to feedback and updates to the program. Check out RoadRunner’s tips for implementing a successful Eco-Ambassador Program at your business and get started.
3. Define clear sustainability strategies and goals
The best way to truly understand the impact of your recycling efforts is to set program goals and measure against them. Using data and reporting to measure success is key. Observing program reports can help uncover new opportunities for your program, influence you to update sustainability plans, streamline recycling processes, identify inefficiencies, and more. Before getting started, your business should consider conducting a waste audit to better understand the current state of your waste operations to better strategize where improvements can be made to increase recycling rates, reduce landfill waste, and minimize operational costs in the future.
In addition to your internal reporting, a third-party service provider can help you better understand your services, waste volumes, materials, and operations to provide program recommendations and help you make well-informed decisions about recycling and cost savings strategies. In the example below, RoadRunner Recycling worked with the World Bank to help them design and implement a standardized recycling program that would dramatically increase their landfill diversion rates and save the company money on its monthly waste bills. Each month, RoadRunner tracked and measured the organization’s diversion rates, allowing us to provide recommendations so they could improve their recycling efforts and the effectiveness of their programs, later resulting cost cutting and recycling rate improvement.
4. Evaluate & reorganize your collection system
Something as simple as evaluating and reorganizing your collection system can help improve the effectiveness of your recycling program. As mentioned earlier, waste audits can help you get started with this process by exposing the current state of your operations, including what is and isn’t working with your collection system. It also will reveal what materials are being thrown away, what is being recycled, and where waste is being generated the most in your building. Armed with this information, perhaps you will discover opportunities to capture more recyclables in one area of the facility more than the other!
All that said, focusing on making recycling more accessible is key. Unsurprisingly, studies show that making recycling more convenient for employees encourages more participation and boosts recycling rates. In this specific example, researchers saw recycling and composting rates increase by 141 percent when they conveniently placed their bins closer to the doors of a room exit. You, too, can make a big impact by using data revealed in your own waste audit to uncover areas of improvement and identify methods to make disposing of waste and recyclables more accessible. One way to do this is by placing your containers in high-traffic areas like the kitchen or break rooms. Additionally, it is best practice to stage your trash and recycling containers next to each other to enforce the separation of materials, so they remain clean and valuable. Make sure each container is clearly labeled with color-coded signage to represent each stream accurately.
5. Make recycling more rewarding
Motivating workers with rewards for recycling is a nice way to make the process more enjoyable and maximize participation. In a Sustainable Brands survey, 41% of respondents said that money or rewards were the most effective way to get them to recycle. Tracking your organization's impacts, and rewarding employees or specific groups based on their efforts can help participants visualize their progress and encourage them to keep recycling. Try creating a poster with stickers, or using a dry erase board to track improvements over time. When everyone in your organization can see their achievements, employee participation and motivation is likely to kick-in. Choosing how to reward your staff is up to you! Perhaps you offer a lunch sponsored by your Green Team, reward PTO, or provide a gift card to top performers—the choice is up to you!
When your business or organization takes the necessary steps to keep its recycling program evergreen, you will begin to see immediate results in the form of improved recycling rates, higher cost savings, and happier employees. If you are interested in learning more, RoadRunner offers complimentary waste and recycling consultations to help your business understand how they can recycle more and spend less. Schedule time to speak with us today!