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Getting started with a waste recycling program is easy, but it requires a methodical approach and some basic preparation. A successful recycling program does not always mean a large recycling program. One of the most important factors to consider is efficiency. Some of the most successful recycling programs are small but well managed. Oftentimes it is best to start on a small scale which can provide an opportunity to evaluate infrastructure requirements before expanding to a larger scale. For example, a company that has identified huge volumes of cardboard that can be recycled might want to start off by selecting a small area of the facility for a recycling program in order to begin developing policies and procedures that could be refined before proceeding to a much larger scale.  Below are some preliminary considerations and tips that may be helpful.  

1. Realize that the commitment level of senior management plays a huge role in the success of a recycling program. And, the overall success of a recycling program depends on everyone’s  cooperation from the top down.  A good start is for management and employees to work together on crafting a ‘mission statement’ for the recycling program.

2. Designate a waste recycling manager or coordinator who will oversee the collection of information, the evaluation of data, and the implementation of the recycling program.

3. Create a waste recycling task force that will be in charge of overseeing the day to day activities of the  recycling program.

4. Conduct a thorough waste audit which can provide valuable information about the profile of waste stream and the most logical materials that should be considered for recycling, based on volume, market conditions (for the particular recyclables in question) and other factors that can help make the recycling program be more effective. As part of the waste audit try to identify potential waste reduction opportunities.

5. Implement a set of corporate policies that outline waste reduction, reuse and recycling as being preferable to waste disposal, incineration or treatment.

6. Evaluate material waste exchanges. Waste materials from one company are usually needed by other companies. Markets for recyclables are growing rapidly, however there are several factors that can impact the value of the recyclables such as: The market demand, the condition of the recyclable, the availability of bales and bale size and proximity to markets. Start with the easy recyclables first. Packaging materials usually provides the easiest reduction opportunities.

7. When deciding what materials to recycle consider contamination aspects, volume, loading and transportation requirements, storage space, separation requirements, estimated revenues, estimated maintenance and other costs including any consumables (such as baling wire). 

8. Devise collection systems that are convenient to use. Consider things like space availability, labor needs, equipment / container requirements and physical layout.

9. Promote the program in order to maximize participation and ensure compliance with the program requirements.

10. Re-evaluate the program on a routines basis in order to monitor its effectiveness and efficiency. Feedback on the program can be obtained from a variety of sources such as: (a) custodial staff, for input regarding material quality and handling practices, (b) employees or customers, for opinions concerning convenience and (c) waste hauler or recycler, for data concerning the type and amount of material recycled.

11. In the initial stages it is important to provide the necessary budget and incentives for maximizing follow-through of the recycling (and waste reduction) program. Reward and recognize employees when they come up with new ways to reduce and recycle.  This could include bonuses, certificates, recognition in newsletters, etc.. 

12. Create milestones and track your company's waste and recycling related progress and accomplishments (such as percentage of waste being recycled).

13. Track your waste processing cost reductions and overall savings.  In addition to actual costs also consider avoided costs..

14. As part of the waste recycling program, encourage the use of products that reduce waste and reuse waste.

15. Promote the expansion of recyclables markets by 'Buying Recycled'.

16. Provide proper recycling bins for the various recyclables that have been chosen to be recycled.  

17. The placement of the recycling bins should be such that they achieve a good balance between convenience and clutter. If bins are too far away from where the waste is discarded they won't be used. People who work in each area can oftentimes offer good suggestions as to where the bins should be placed. Also, be sure to monitor the bins closely, especially in the beginning to make sure that the bins aren’t overflowing.

18. Make sure that bins in public areas are well-marked. For these areas, it is best to choose bins with custom openings, such as a hole for cans or a slot for newspapers etc. It is also important to place bins at the location where the materials are generated.

19. Depending on the physical layout of the building(s) and other factors, determine the best way for trash to be processed based on the addition of the recycling program. Keep in mind that any waste that is considered hazardous (such as red-bag waste for medical facilities) must be processed according to regulations and there is no lee-way in this area.

20. Where possible try to organize your various waste streams according to different categories. For example package wastes (waste from the packaging of your suppliers products sold to you etc)or process wastes (waste produced while producing products for others etc), office trash, food service areas, staff lounges, manufacturing areas and any other areas that are applicable.

21. Perform a walk-through of each work area within your facility and note what type of trash is generated from each area. A walk-through will not only reveal important information but it will also help you understand the types of containers and placement of containers that will be needed. For example, a typical walk-through might reveal the following:

Administrative and office areas - plastic bottles, cans, office paper, corrugated cardboard and other paper.

Food service areas – amount of wet waste, grease, paper, glass, metal, cans, food containers and cardboard

Public areas - bottles, cans, newspaper and magazines.  

22. After evaluating the different types of waste streams within your facility in more detail, other decisions may be more obvious. For example, if your office generates huge amounts of paper waste, determine whether a mixed paper program would be preferable to a ‘white paper / newspaper / computer paper’ program. Knowing your facility will help you to decide which program best suits your needs. As much as 93% of all office waste is paper, most of it recyclable.  

23. Be sure that regular waste is not being mixed with any hazardous waste. Educate staff members about what does and does not belong in the regular trash bins. Also, make sure that any food waste is separated or that it goes down the garbage disposal.  

24. Determine and develop procedures for how the recyclables will be collected, separated and/or sorted. For example, designate a central area for collection of recyclable materials in storage rooms or other common area. The bigger the program, the more serious the sorting procedures will have to be.

25. Once the process has been refined, send a memo out to all involved explaining the process and specific separation and sorting procedures that have been decided upon. For example, remind everyone to keep food waste out of recycling containers and trash. Food waste should go down the garbage disposal or be handled separately from trash and recyclables.   Be specific about what items get placed where, such as cans from XYZ company get recycled, but the ABC company containers go into the trash.

26. Make up a "Dos and Don'ts" list for recycling and post it on the bulletin board or at work stations.  

27. In self-serve restaurants, post signs about your recycling efforts and clearly indicate where they should dispose of their recyclable materials. Recycling bins should be convenient for the customers disposal and collection by employees.

28. Set up some basic internal and external controls. For example,  carefully track the volume and types of recyclables that are being processed at your facility.  Not only does this serve as a check and balance for the compensation you are to receive but it will also prompt you to sudden changes in data.

29. In addition to educating everyone involved about the waste recycling procedures in the initial stages, there must be continuous education as the procedures are refined and streamlined.   Provide new employees with recycling information and an orientation packet about the waste processing routines. 

30. Clearly describe and differentiate the responsibilities of all who are involved from management to the recycling coordinator to the task force to the employees.

31. Keep employees informed about the progress by issuing periodic memos.   Designate weekly or monthly follow up to ensure that procedures are being followed and further educate employees as necessary.

32. Once policies have been implemented continue to refine the processes and routines by encouraging feedback from your employees, especially those who are most involved in the waste processing operations.

33. Keep yard waste separate from other waste.

34. The recycling program should include provisions for keeping wet waste separated from recyclables which includes separate containers for regular trash versus recyclables.

35. For all new hires, include waste recycling information in your training and orientation materials.

36. The larger the quantity of a specific recyclable (such as cardboard) that is being generated, the more it becomes necessary to evaluate things in much greater detail. For example, with huge amounts of a particular recyclable, some additional considerations might be: 

            a) Local reservoir of buyers for the respective recyclable.

            b) Prices paid for the respective recyclable.

            c) Guidelines for amount of recyclables that are acceptable for pick-up.

            d) Whether the recyclables qualify for pick-up in loose form or if it requires densifiction such as
                 baling or compacting

            e) Pricing variances based on things such as who will load the recyclables. Will the hauler load
                 or will the seller load. .

            f) Will containers be furnished by the buyer or recycler.  

            g) What condition are the recyclables.  Are they in excellent condition or contaiminated, and if so
                 to what degree

37. Where large amounts of a particular recyclable are involved determine whether or not there is an opportunity to reuse some of that waste stream. For example, consider the reuse of cardboard waste by donating or selling cardboard containers to other firms. Oftentimes boxes can be given away depending upon their quality and size. For example, gaylord boxes (4' x 4' x 4' ) that are used to store bulky materials are very popular. 

38. Coordinate the collection of recyclables with regular trash collection.

39. Depending upon the materials that you have isolated for recycling, consider special equipment such as balers, shredders and glass crushers that can help reduce the volume of your recyclable material. In addition, large recycling programs may find it efficient to purchase a forklift and designate one employee to collect, bale and load the recyclable. This equipment will allow for efficient management of space and may increase the likelihood of favorable recycling service contracts.

40. For a quick estimate of the payback for a waste recycling program using a baler, some preliminary basics can be applied and then later refined. For example:

Items to consider for quick payback evaluation of the waste recycling program. 

A. Main Cost Items per year - (Example using Baler(s) as equipment purchased):

i)   Cost of Baler(s) (amortized) over 10 years – (Cost of Baler divided by 10)

ii)  Cost of Wire per bale – (If the data isn't handy, figure approximately $2 per bale)

iii) Cost of Electricity per bale – The kWh used will vary widely, although (if the data isn't handy) an estimate for one 1000-pound bale would probably be around $1.75 - $2.

iv)  Cost of Maintenance – Figure anywhere from 1 – 3 percent yearly of the (new) Baler cost and much more than that on used balers)

v)   Cost of Labor per bale (figuring 45 minutes per bale)

vi)  Other – Such as any hauling costs or other miscellaneous costs, depending on circumstances

B. Revenues:  

i)  Tons of Recyclable per month x 12 months x dollars per ton received equals revenue per year

ii) *Plus Savings from reduced disposal costs due to diverting recyclables out of waste stream 

*Note: Remember to add to the revenue side of the equation the savings derived from the reduction in disposal costs (trash tips and hauling by the waste hauler). For example, if you remove cardboard from your waste stream to the extent your monthly tips are reduced from 10 tips per month down to just 5 tips per month and each of those tips is costing you $50, then you have reduced your disposal costs by $250 per month or $3,000 per year. And if you were being charged for disposal costs (such as weight charges at the landfill) then you would also need to deduct the respective portion of the weight charges that were eliminated. Also, any monthly rental charges for dumpsters that might have been eliminated.

With a good focus and proper objectives, the benefits of a recycling program can be realized. There are numerous types of recycling opportunities available to most companies. Some of the most popular recycling programs include Cardboard Recycling, Paper Recycling, PET Plastic Recycling, HDPE Plastic Recycling, Aluminium Recycling, Glass Recycling, Metals Recycling, Computer Recycling, Electronics Recycling, Cell Phone Recycling, Fluorescent Bulbs or Lamps, Inkjet Cartridge Recycling, Toner Recycling, Pallet Recycling, Battery Recycling, Tire Recycling, Auto Recycling, Oil Recycling, Concrete Recycling, Wood Recycling, Steel Recycling, Paint Recycling, Appliance Recycling, Copper Recycling, Styrofoam Recycling, Rubber Recycling, Antifreeze Recycling, and many others. By starting with a small recycling program it provides a great opportunity to refine systems and build solid infrastructure before expanding. Starting small can either mean taking a large volume recyclable and restricting the program to one area within an organization or it can mean finding one of many recyclables and focusing on that one recyclable (throughout the organization) before expanding to other recyclables. The bottom line is that the success of any recycling program depends on the commitment of management and the cooperation of all employees and participants, regardless of how big or small the program. 


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