Office of General Services

New York State Office of General Services

Reduce Your Agency's Office Waste


The first tier in the waste management hierarchy is waste reduction. Reducing agency waste has the potential to both save money on waste hauler and disposal fees, and it provides numerous benefits to the environment, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions, by diverting materials from landfills. After conducting a waste audit, state agencies and office buildings can take steps to reduce their waste by incorporating the ideas within this section into their office or agency sustainability initiatives.

General Tips for Reducing Office Waste 

Everyday office tasks such as print jobs and mailings can be sources of waste. With the large number of staff at state agency office buildings, small changes to office practices can lead to a big difference. Incorporating these small changes and making them part of routine practice will help your office or agency reduce their waste generation.


Use Less Paper:

Reuse Office Supplies:

Encourage the reuse of office supplies by developing an office supply reuse area. An internal office supply reuse area is an important tool in reducing the use of natural resources to create new materials, reducing office waste and reducing office purchases. Office reuse items might include but are not limited to: binder clips, manila envelopes, hanging file folders, pocket folders, three ring binders, etc.

What to do With Unusual Items:

Create an "odd recyclables" area. Items in the "odd recyclables" area should be office-generated items and not personal items brought in from home. Office "odd recyclables" collection items might include but are not limited to: cell phones, alkaline batteries, rechargeable batteries, CDs and floppy disks, greeting cards, compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs), eyeglasses, holidays lights, ink and toner cartridges, plastic padded envelopes, Tyvek envelopes, and bubble wrap. Not sure what to do with your "odd recycles" and need help recycling them? Check Earth 911's recycling database where you can enter your item and zip code in order to find an appropriate recycling location or outlet for your recyclable material.

Green Your Meetings and Events 

Green Meetings

Bringing your sustainability initiatives to meetings that you're hosting both inside of and outside of the office can help to further your agency's sustainability goals. Although it may seem overwhelming at first, the following resources can help in the planning process.

NYS DEC's Green Meeting Checklist - The NYSDEC's green meeting checklist can help you with your green meeting planning in an organized way.

10 Tips for Making Your Event More Sustainable - These ten tips provided by the Green Meeting Industry Council give you a quick and easy reference for green meeting planning.

Green Meeting Industry Council Best Practices - The Green Meeting Industry Council's Best Practices list provides the framework for planning your green meeting from start to finish.

Zero Waste Workplace Events

From retirement and birthday parties to holiday events, luncheons, and special occasions, workplace events are an area where additional waste is generated. With simple advanced planning using the tips below, waste generation can be reduced at workplace events.

Green Your Lunch 

Lunchhour is another time of day when additional waste is generated. However, with proper planning, a lot of waste can be avoided. The following tips and resources can help you get started.

When you bring your lunch - Pack your lunch in reusable glass or plastic containers with a reusable lunchbox or bag. The Winter 2017 issue of New York State Conservationist for Kids identifies simple swaps to help you reduce your lunchtime waste.

When you eat out - Bring your own reusable container to have your takeout or leftovers put in. If you know that you won't finish your food, ask to have half of it put in your reusable container at the start of your meal in order to reduce potential food waste.

Keep a "Reusables" Cabinet - An office reusables cabinet with a supply of dinnerware items for everyone to borrow from can help guarantee that single-use items are less likely to be used over the long term. Stock items like water bottles, thermoses, cups, mugs, plates, bowls, silverware, water pitchers, platters, and serving utensils. Ask colleagues to help supply the cabinet with items from home they may no longer want or use.

Coffee and Tea Waste Reduction - Coffee and tea are considered a staple in most office environments. However, these two beverages can generate a lot of waste, especially if your office has a single-serve brewing machine, like a Keurig. Incorporating waste reduction education into this area of the office can become a waste reduction habit for people.

Organize an Office Swap - One person's trash is another person's treasure. Designate a place in the office for an "office swap." Encourage colleagues to bring in unwanted items from home for others to use. Suitable office swap items include books and magazines, craft supplies, gardening supplies, clothing, and athletic gear.

Office Outreach and Education 

As with all waste diversion efforts, ongoing outreach and education is key to improving and maintaining your recycling and composting programs. Agency newsletters, emails, websites, and social media are helpful tools for communicating to staff. Keep your message consistent to encourage participation. Other tips include:

Waste Reduction Resources  

These resources provide other waste reduction and reuse tips and ideas that can be incorporated into your office and daily life:

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