How can I get my office or school to recycle more?

office papersWe’re having a bit of a themed week here on Recycle This, focusing on stationery and since stationery items are most frequently used in offices or schools, I thought it might be fitting to have a discussion on ways and ideas to help get organisations to recycle more.

Although I was inspired by the stationery stuff, I’m not just thinking stationery really – but also excess manufacturing materials. Or packaging for food in canteens/staff rooms.

Have you set up, or helped set up, a recycling scheme in your place of work or school?

What works? What doesn’t?

What do you think is most important when setting up a scheme? Should you start small (perhaps focusing on doing one thing) and build up or go straight into recycling everything all the time?

What are the best things to say to management/teachers to get them onboard? What about getting colleagues/classmates motivated too?

Any ideas, suggestions or comments would be very useful.

(Photo by budesigns)

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18 Responses to “How can I get my office or school to recycle more?”

  1. My personal advice is to make it as easy as possible to help others recycle. So this means adding special recycling bins right next to conventional bins for example.


    • louisa says:

      My last employer outlawed conventional bins (which we all had under our desks) to force us to use the recycling ones (one big paper bin per office, the other bins for plastics etc in the staff room on another floor).

      I don’t think that’s necessarily the best way to go though – it was a bit of a pain having to walk around (through a fancy academic library) with sticky food wrappers and the like but I suspect it got people to paper recycle more. (I’d had a paper bin next to my normal bin anyway.)

    • Alika says:

      Dan @ Daily Eco Tips wrote:

      My personal advice is to make it as easy as possible to help others recycle. So this means adding special recycling bins right next to conventional bins for example.

      Agreed. I’ve seen a disturbing trend in some local apartment complexes in my neighborhood. They will initially have recycling bins next to each trash chute, but after a several incidents of the bins being tainted by careless residents, the building management companies decided to remove the recycling bins rather than to try to solve the tainting problem.

      Do you (or does anyone) know of any tried and true methods to get the “average Joe” to not taint a recycling bin? (Clear signage is one; any other ideas?)

  2. Delusion says:

    After a LOT of pushing I finally got our company to start small with recycling paper (thankfully when this worked they moved onto bigger things)

    Paper recycling bins beside photocopiers/printers

    Rough tray next to printers/faxes (for printing rough notes/memos on the back)

    Making a set of pads out of waste paper. When it gets quiet I will sit and either staple or tie pages together then pass them around.

    Moving onto electronic faxes rather than the conventional paper fax (this also cuts down on electricity/ink needed)

    Buying Lever Arch labels (I found many fine lever arch folders were not used again due to the black marker notes used on the spine. By making/purchasing labels to cover them up it make them look new and people used them again and didn’t by more)

    Have a “Recycling Week”. This worked at our place they had large drums put in the warehouse for all things – paper/metal/plastic/packing material/clothing etc and everyone from every department was encouraged to bring their waste down.

    • louisa says:

      Lots of great suggestions there, thanks Delusion.

      I used to do the scrap-pads-out-of-waste-paper thing too but I didn’t have the patience to staple them — I just found some giant bulldog clips instead and used them. Super easy to refill ;)

      • Delusion says:

        Yea the stapling can be pretty tedious. What I’ve done recently (since I had a mass of paper) was to punch holes in the top and then thread them all onto tail tags.

        So I can add to it and just rip off the papers used.

        I used tail tags because I noticed someone had ordered a box full and hadn’t used it.

  3. Bellen says:

    In my experience it is helpful if one person in the office is very much interested in recycling. Usually that was me – I’d ask for and get newspapers, magazines, coffee grounds (I provided the collection container). People started asking why & what for – I explained the papers & coffee grounds for gardening, the magazines I read then passed on. After that, others started. My bosses were always supportive because it was done in a non-confrontational manner.

    Trying to force people to do something they are not in the habit of doing or not supportive of will not make them be compliant. Again, showing the way seems to be best.

    By the way, for using scrap paper as notepaper – I had a paper covered box on my desk that held paper cut to about 3×5, useful, pretty and easy to do – others soon followed suit.

    For some bosses emphasizing the saving money by not buying so much paper, notepads, etc may be the best approach.

    • Delusion says:

      I am totally with you there Bellen. It does help to have someone with the driving force and especially if people can come to that person rather than being hounded (I too am that person in our office)

      And yea, I find whenever our Safety & Environment committee at work meets, we get more support if its done in a “save money, increase your annaul bonus” way :)

  4. MJ Ray says:

    @louisa (the reply links here don’t work for me) – isn’t the idea that people will start asking for sticky food in paper wrappers, rather than walking all around the library with plastic ones?

    +1 to the comment above about the problem with trying to force people.

    • louisa says:

      MJ Ray – possibly, I don’t think they were thinking that far ahead to be honest but I was thinking about fruit “wrappers” too, like orange or banana peel.

  5. zig says:

    I volunteer at our school and I have been taking mugs we don’t use anymore to school and putting them in the teacher’s lounge. I know some of the teacher’s don’t like using the styrofoam cups and prefer using the ceramic one’s (some I got from people some I bought from garage sales). I figure the PTA is saving money because they don’t have to by styrofoam cups. And I am helping the environment by the teachers tossing less waste in the trash bin.


  6. Kacy says:

    I teach at an elementary school and we have a large dumpster like container outside. The first year we were paid about 5,000 dollars(US)for our paper. The next year we made 13,000 dollars. We post the super-sized check at the school. I think money is always a good motivator if you can find a company that will pay you for your paper.

    • shannon says:

      What company did you recycle through because i am trying to get my boss to recycle and an insentive seems to be the only bribery tool i have right now.

  7. Kris says:

    Please advise locations in Northeast Pennsylvania to recycle office papter. thanks!

  8. I watched several school districts begin recycling recently while I was covering school board meetings for the newspaper. Several key observations from these recycling projects come to mind. The initiatives were always student-led (grassroots) with the administration becoming supportive after students and a few faculty made the case. The students had to volunteer their labor to make the program acceptable, however. The students were also able to demonstrate a significant cost savings and the schools were able to receive payment for the recycled paper.

    The combination of grassroots movement and demonstrated cost savings seemed to be key to these school districts endorsing the recycling programs.

    I have definitely found a prevailing opinion among businesses that environmentally responsible practices cost more money. This is often not the case and many times the “green” option is also the most cost effective option. YUDU has a great little publication titled “You Can’t Afford Not to be Green” (published in an eco-friendly, digital format – that shows how environmentally responsible practices can save money.

  9. angelica montes says:

    i defenetly think more schools should start recycling

  10. HuntingWabbits says:

    A good way to make an office green could be to have an incentive at the end of every month for the green-est employee, like a gift certificate or extra on paycheck. The company can provide mugs/thermoses, and pay employees for every day they use a mug instead of a disposable cup. I’ve also noticed that large companies tend to just throw out PERFECTLY good office supplies without blinking an eyelid. I’m talking brand-new, with price stickers, not a spot of dust or wear. Stuff like binders, folders, those mesh metal organizers, chairs, desks, bookends, pencils, pens, slightly imperfect personalized items (with the company name). etc. What there should be is an organization that drives around picking these up from offices, taking an inventory, and selling them to smaller companies at a reduced price (to help pay for transportation, etc.)

  11. Self Promotion is the best wayas Bellen has done. But not everyone has the time to research the best ways for recycling.

    If you can get the information to headteachers and get them to think through the options available to them then they’ll think the decision was their own in the first palce and therefore the best one.

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