One way to help reduce waste generation is through improving your office recycling program. Office recycling programs can be improved in a variety of ways and provides a significant opportunity to divert recyclable and compostable materials from the waste stream. From finding out what recyclable materials are accepted by your waste hauler, to organizing your recycling bins and enhancing your office outreach strategy, this information will give you steps and ideas on how to approach your office's recycling goals.
General Tips to Increase Office Recycling
Find Out What's Accepted for Recycling
Not all waste haulers accept all types of recyclable and compostable materials. Whether your collection service is provided by your town, a private hauler, or the agency building management, it is important to learn what is and isn't accepted and how to sort office waste for maximum recycling potential. The following tips can help you get started:
- Contact your building manager or your building's waste hauler to learn about what materials are accepted for recycling. If you are in an OGS-managed building, find building management contact information on the OGS website at: https://ogs.ny.gov/BU/BA/Directory.asp
- Is your agency looking for waste removal services? Learn more about the OGS Recycling and Trash Removal Contract (Award 22760), which is a mini-bid contract that includes recycling, composting and disposal.
- Check out the Recycling Partnership's Acceptable Materials Worksheet for community members to use when talking to their local waste hauler or recycling facility. Although this was developed for community use, it is a valuable resource for anyone looking to contact a hauler or recycling facility to find out what is and is not accepted in their recycling program.
- Contact your local recycling coordinator for assistance with talking to your waste hauler, determining what's acceptable in your local recycling program, and for ideas on education and outreach initiatives for your office.
Make Recycling Easy
Your office recycling, composting, and trash collection system should be as convenient as possible to encourage use. In general, place recycling and composting containers wherever you have trash containers. Containers should also be appropriately labeled with helpful signage about what does/does not belong in each container.
- Have an appropriate number of collection containers for the number of people in your office and space available for the containers.
- Place containers in all kitchen areas, common rooms, meeting rooms, and at desk spaces. Make sure that all areas of your agency that generate waste have the appropriate bins, such as labs, maintenance facilities, and campgrounds.
- Special recycling containers are available with slots or small holes designed to only accept certain materials. For example, bottle recycling bins have a round hole for cans.
- Lock outdoor dumpsters to minimize contamination.
- Be consistent with your bins, labeling, and signage. For example, staying with the same bin color for each category of waste is very helpful for people (recycling = blue container, composting = green container, landfill = black container).
Electronic Waste Recycling
Electronic recycling is an important aspect of any office or agency recycling program. During the electronics recycling process, valuable materials can be extracted and recovered from the electronics and made into new products. Recycling electronic waste:
- Conserves natural resources by reclaiming and reusing valuable materials;
- Helps to keep toxins such as lead and mercury from contaminating the soil, water, and air; and
- Allows thousands of pounds of waste to be diverted from landfills and incinerators.
When disposing of electronic waste, use the following guidelines:
- In OGS-managed buildings: contact your OGS building manager for directions on how to recycle specific electronic materials. Examples of electronic waste that OGS recycles include:
- Computers, hard-drives and monitors;
- Toner cartridges
- Fluorescent tubes/DFLs
- State agencies not in OGS-managed buildings must follow NYS Industries for the Disabled Guidelines when managing their electronic waste.
- The Department of Environmental Conservation and its E-waste Law do not dictate how state agencies manage their electronic waste. State agencies are for the most part generators, and do not need to register as collection sites with the Department. An agency would only need to register with the Department if it is collecting electronic waste from the public.
- An example of the electronic recycling process for a cell phone can be found in the February 2017 waste reduction issue of New York State's Conservationist for Kids.
Plastic Bag and Film Plastic Recycling
From our communities to our waterways and our local open spaces, plastic bags are visible almost anywhere you look. Pieces of plastic bags also appear in animals that live in our lands, forests, lakes, and oceans. Plastic bag and film plastic recycling is not currently part of state agency recycling programs. However, through following proper procedures and recycling laws, agencies can incorporate plastic bag and film plastic recycling programs into their existing recycling programs. By setting up a plastic bag and film plastic recycling program, your agency can improve its waste reduction initiatives, help save and protect natural resources and wildlife, and decrease litter. The following tips will help you get started:
- Do not place plastic bags and film plastic in your regular recycling bin, as the material causes problems for recycling facility machinery.
- Collect plastic bags and film plastics in a special bin and bring them to a retail store that falls under the New York State Plastic Bag Reduction, Reuse, and Recycling Act. In accordance with the Act, stores with 10,000 square feet or more of retail space and chains that operate 5 or more stores with greater than 5,000 square feet of retail space, and which provide plastic carry-out bags to customers, are required to provide plastic bag and film plastic recycling bins for customers.
- Recycling of plastic bags and film plastics is not currently part of the state Recycling and Trash Removal Services contract. Recycling of plastics is Lot 9, but this refers to #1-7 plastic bottles and containers and not plastic bags. According to OGS information, if an agency wants to hire a recycler for plastic bags and film plastic, they would need to either use discretionary spending or conduct an agency specific procurement.
- When looking for an outlet or recycler of your plastic bags and film plastics, plasticfilmrecycling.org has information available to help you set up your collection program.
- What to bring to your local drop-off center - Encourage proper plastic bag and film plastic recycling and reduce collection container contamination by educating staff about what is and is not accepted in plastic bag and film plastic recycling bins.
- Frequently Asked Questions - Since people are usually unfamiliar with plastic bag and film plastic recycling, information and answers to frequently asked questions are also a helpful resource.
Waste Reduction and Recycling Resources
- NYS Department of Environmental Conservation Waste Reduction Tips - Ideas for waste reduction for work or home.
- NYS Department of Environmental Conservation Reuse Tips - Ideas for reusing items made of paper, plastic, glass and metal.
- List of Materials Exchanges Programs - Materials exchanges facilitate the exchange of materials or wastes from one party, who may have no use for a material, to another that may view a material as a valuable commodity.
- The Reuse Marketplace - The Reuse Marketplace is a free regional network to find, sell, trade, or give away reusable and surplus items that would otherwise be disposed as trash.
- The Recycling Partnership - The Recycling Partnership's steps to help decrease contamination in your recycling stream is applicable to office settings.
- Glass Recycling Coalition - If your agency or waste hauler does not accept glass, check the Glass Recycling Coalition to help locate a glass recycling facility. Also check the OGS Recycling and Trash Removal Services contract to find glass recycling options on state contract.
- If your agency or waste hauler does not accept shredded paper, check the OGS Recycling and Trash Removal Services contract to find paper shredding, including confidential, options on state contract.
- Earth911 - Not sure what to do with your "odd recyclables"? Check out the Earth911 database to search for recycling locations.
- CFL Recycling Center Locator - Find recycling centers for compact fluorescent lights (CFLs).