Recycling isn’t just good for the environment, but also for businesses. Studies have shown that businesses that implement the principles of the circular economy at the workplace and encourage their employees to recycle have a better reputation, gain more consumer trust, and do better financially.
In Europe, for instance, incorporating sustainable practices in the workplace is estimated to save businesses a collective €600 billion and give the GDP a 1% increase. More and more business owners are aware of the benefits of going green and would love to become a part of the change. But going from theory to practice isn’t always easy.
Many times, simply telling employees to recycle more isn’t enough. When you have big dreams and ambitious sustainability targets, but also mountains of waste on your premises, here are some simple strategies you can use to encourage your staff to make recycling second nature.
Although sometimes evidence points to the contrary, people don’t want to produce waste and work in a dirty office. Recent studies have shown that most people actually want to recycle, but if it’s not easy enough, they just won’t do it. If an employee has to go down two flights to stairs to find the nearest recycling bin or spend five minutes deciding where an empty bottle should go, they’ll toss it at random.
So, first of all, the infrastructure has to be there. Make sure you have recycling bins in every office, right next to the regular bins.
These bins should be signalled accordingly, through visual cues, and there should be informative boards nearby, in case people don’t know which waste goes where.
Sorting waste isn’t always that intuitive. For example, did you know that shredded paper shouldn’t be added to the recycling bin because the pieces are too small and can clog up recycling machines? Similarly, plastic and glass containers should be free from any traces of food, and bubble wrap and packing peanuts are non-recyclable.
Bringing recycling bins on the premises is only the first step. To make sure employees use them, and use them right, you have to take the take to educate them and answer their questions. Otherwise, you’re making an investment that won’t give back any returns.
Reduce the amount of potential waste
The order of the three Rs is:
Giving new life to waste and recycling it is obviously very important but to truly make a difference, you have to reduce the amount of potential waste at the workplace. Many employers don’t realize it, but they’re handing their workers tonnes of waste each year under the form of paper cups, single-use dishware, and, of course, paper. Lots and lots of paper.
Did you know that one single worker uses up to 2 pounds of paper every day and most of this goes to memos, lists, and other non-essential documents that could be in digital format instead? Going paperless boosts business efficiency reduces clutter, and makes you more eco-friendly.
And, when you don’t have a choice and need to purchase those supplies, work with local green vendors.
Make recycling cleaner and more efficient.
Traditional recycling bins have many downsides, especially for businesses that produce high amounts of waste of a single type. Until your waste collection provider comes to pick up the waste, it has to lie around, generating clutter and reducing worker efficiency. Over time, all that accumulated waste is blown away by the wind, attracts rodents and other pests and can become as dirty and gross as your regular rubbish bin. It can also become contaminated, and recycling plants might reject it.
A sustainable office should have efficient ways of storing waste. For example, you can use balers and compactors from companies like Miltek, which save space and increase the worth of your waste to recyclers. This way, you’re achieving two goals: you’re making the workplace neater, and you’re saving money by recycling.
Recycling should be a part of your company culture.
In order to become a sustainable company, you need to implement measures in the right way. If recycling bins suddenly pop upon the hallways one day, employees might not even notice them or won’t feel too enthusiastic about them.
So, don’t make recycling just another meaningless activity in the workplace. Make it count. Make it a part of your company culture. This way, sustainability will be instilled in your workers’ behavior, and they won’t just recycle at the office. They’ll apply the same principles at home, and encourage their friends to do it. The average person spends 40 hours per week at work, so the habits picked up here are more important than you think.
To maximize the impact of your sustainable policies, make sure everyone at the workplace knows about them and understands their importance. Announce them in office newsletters, write about them on social media, and find a few hours to answer your team’s questions. In addition to on-premise measures, you can also take part in local recycling initiatives.
This can also bring additional benefits in the future, since it strengthens your brand’s reputation and attracts top talent. One recent study showed that 70% of Millennials would accept a smaller paycheck just to work for a sustainable company and 40% would accept the job thanks to its sustainable policies. Green really is the future for businesses, and it can give them a competitive advantage by aligning them with the requirements of the modern workforce.
Turn recycling into a game.
Climate change, resource depletion, and landfill-generated pollution are serious matters that require careful solutions, but that doesn’t mean that recycling can’t be fun. On the contrary, gamification can motivate your employees to be more committed to recycling. For example, you can give rewards to workers who have recycled the most under the form of sustainable products such as bamboo travel cups or coupons at local green businesses.
No matter what your strategy is, remember to be patient. Your employees will need time to adjust, and it might take months for old habits to die.