Recycling. We all mean to do it. The next time. Later. Tomorrow. There are a lot of excuses for why we don’t: It’s confusing. We don’t know where to put things. We don’t know what’s recyclable. We don’t know which color bin to use.
In particular, it’s hard to get employees motivated to recycle around the office. When everyone is already busy and stressed, sometimes that little bit of extra effort is the first thing to fall by the wayside.
However, there are a few easy ways business owners and office managers can encourage employees to find the motivation they need to take recycling seriously. It’s important to provide education, motivation, simplification, conservation, and even some friendly competition in order to kick-start a program for becoming more environmentally friendly.
The first step is to show employees why it’s important to recycle. Put together some facts about how much waste is generated by your office every day, every month, and every year. Put these factsheets right by your waste disposal facilities to make sure that employees will notice them whenever they go to throw something out. You could also add information about how waste affects the environment, so that your workers will be reminded about the potential impact of their choices.
This can be related to education. Remind employees of the concrete ways that recycling benefits the earth, how it reduces pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, protects natural resources like trees and minerals, and lowers energy costs. Explain how much money is saved by recycling each year. Put some of that money into rewards for employees, like a party, or even gifts made out of recyclable or re-used materials.
One of the biggest reasons that individuals are often reluctant to recycle is that they find it confusing. There is the trash can, the bin for paper, the bin for aluminum cans, the bin for “everything else,” then on top of that, there are often different color bins for different types of objects. Sometimes people fear putting the wrong thing in the wrong place, and it just seems simpler to toss an object in the trash.
Make your recycling system as clear and straightforward as possible. It might be worth it to just have one bin for anything that can be recycled and pay extra to have the materials sorted later, if it increases employees’ participation in a recycling program. Make sure the recycling bin or bins are clearly marked and located right beside the trash can. If employees have to go look for them, they are unlikely to put forth the effort. The easier it is to recycle, the more likely it is that people will do it.
In addition to recycling, make sure to emphasize the importance of conservation. It is not only about putting paper or plastic in the recycling bin rather than the trash, it’s also about reminding employees not to waste paper or plastic or other materials unnecessarily in the first place. Make sure the culture of the office encourages simple steps like printing double-sided instead of one-sided, saving huge amounts of paper.
Similarly, encourage employees to bring mugs or cups to the office, instead of using disposable paper or plastic ones. In the same way that a cultural shift substantially lowered rates of smoking, a company culture that looks down on waste can reduce the amount of trash you have to send to a landfill.
Competition is always an effective way to encourage desired changes in employee behavior. Set goals for waste reduction and measure which departments do the best job of meeting them. Compare rates of trash to recycled materials and reward those groups that do the best job of improving their ratios. Reward creativity.
Encourage employees to come up with strategies to motivate each other to recycle by providing recognition for good ideas. Initiate a recycled art competition or you could even host a Recyclympics, like the University of Tennessee did.
Most people want to do the right thing – they just need a little help in the form of training and incentive. What makes you want to recycle?
Garret Stembridge is part of the team at Extra Space Storage, a leading provider of self-storage facilities. Garret often writes about sustainable practices for homes and for businesses. Many Extra Space Storage locations, including several in Orlando, have been retrofitted to reduce energy consumption.