The Facts: Office Workers & Their Waste Generation

The Facts: Office Workers & Their Waste Generation


From 10,000 sheets of office paper to 500 disposable coffee cups, the average office worker generates a substantial amount of waste every year. Considering the majority of our days are spent in the office, it’s just as important to focus on recycling there as it is anywhere else. Below you'll find the top 5 most used items in the office and how much the average office worker generates:



Let's dive deeper into how much waste is created in the office...



Mixed Paper Products

The average office worker generates about 2 pounds worth of paper and paperboard products every day and uses 10,000 sheets of paper per year! Between print mistakes, junk mail, handouts, billing, presentations and packaging, mixed paper products make up an estimated 70% of the total waste in offices. This is surprising considering most businesses are moving towards more digital platforms. Nonetheless, we learned that 30% of print jobs are never even picked up from the printer, and 45% end up in the trash by the end of the day! All in all, the average office worker can make a huge impact by reducing and recycling their mixed paper products.

THE SOLUTION: Paper and cardboard can be recycled around 5-7 times, and there are many ways to reduce your usage of these materials. Provide a recycling container designated for just paper recycling in copy rooms and next to each person's desk. Also, print double sided and try only making copies and prints when necessary.



Food Scraps

20-30% of the average person's waste in a day consists of food scraps. Typically, people tend to order and buy more food than they need, resulting in a lot of wasted food. Over the course of a month, the average person throws out around 23 pounds of food! All together, around 40% of food in the U.S. goes uneaten, which is a significant amount of food waste.

THE SOLUTION: Set up an office composting plan to recycle your food scraps. Compostable items include: vegetable pieces, coffee grounds, food scraps, fruit peels, flower and plants. Also, try only buying food that you’re going to eat, and embrace eating leftovers!




Between bottles, bags, and packaging, offices accumulate a lot of plastic materials. The average person uses 156 plastic bottles per year. According to the EPA, in 2003 Americans produced 33 million tons of plastic, but only 9% was recycled. Even though plastic is very recyclable, the continuous growth of all things plastic is difficult to manage. In fact, Americans throw away 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour, but only 20% are recycled!

THE SOLUTION: Designate a commingled recycling bin for all of business' containers, bottles, cans and jars made of metal, plastic or glass. For those you can't recycle, choose to use durable items instead, like reusable water bottles, food containers, lunch boxes and reusable bags.



General Waste

According to the EPA, the average person creates 4.40 pounds of waste each day. Coffee cups, Styrofoam and thin plastics are among the commonly used items that cannot be recycled. Each year, the average office worker uses 500 coffee cups, all of which are sent to landfills. The good news is, your company can probably recycle more than you think. It's estimated that 70% of a business' landfill waste can be recycled! If you are passionate about reducing as much waste as possible, there are usually reusable options for everything your business can't recycle. Talk to your building supervisor if you are in need of some inspiration!

THE SOLUTION: Understand the waste your business is creating the most of and try to reduce it. Simple changes like using a reusable coffee cup instead of plastic or Styrofoam cups can go a long way in making an impact in your business' waste diversion. Most coffee shops will even offer discounts when you use a reusable mug. You can even go a step further by asking your shipping providers to cut down on unnecessary packaging that's hard for your business to recycle.


Learning how to reduce waste and recycle more is very beneficial to the environment and your company! Need help getting started? One of our dedicated recycling experts can help you start recycling more in no time. Feel free to contact us and leave a comment below if you were surprised by any of these facts!



Keep Reading: Top Blog Posts