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7 Simple Ways to Improve the Office Recycling Program for Your Company

Does your office recycling program need improvement?

You’re not alone! Across America, employees struggle to adjust to the business recycling programs that their companies implement. And there are good reasons why adoption is an uphill battle!

The good news is that your green team can take steps to simplify and amplify the impact of your eco-friendly initiatives. It starts with a few tweaks, and the resolution of some core obstacles.

So here’s how to encourage recycling at work using 7 super-easy ways to improve your existing program. These ideas won’t just change your employees, they’ll change your work culture.

#1: Audit Your Office Recycling Bin Locations

How visible are the recycling bins at your office? If you don’t know, then it’s time to do a quick company survey to get to the bottom of the mystery.

It may surprise you that your bins are located in the wrong spot, are hard to access by some employees, or are confusing to use because there are no helpful directions nearby.

There are many different ways to optimize where your office recycling bins are placed. Don’t just change to any-old location, ask your employees – look at the data, and make an educated decision.

According to a Great Forest experiment, the percentage of recyclables in trash dropped by 75% when they audited and centralized their bins.

  • Make sure you have enough bins for the size of your company
  • Your bins should be visible and easy to access in prominent locations
  • Group bins together and separate them by materials
  • Place recycling cans near usage hotspots – paper bins in the copy room, plastic bins in the break room

Auditing your bin location is one of those office recycling ideas that can suddenly, and permanently improve your recycling results. Hear from your employees, and review your recycling data!

#2: Get an App That Tells You What Can Be Recycled

One of the most common issues with your recycling program at work, is that your employees don’t know what can, and what can’t be recycled.

A recent Covanta survey of 2000 Americans said that 62% of respondents worry that they don’t know how to correctly recycle things. It makes sense then, to help your employees find out.

  • Get a ‘what-goes-where app that tells your employees what can and can’t be recycled
  • Work on educating your employees about recyclable materials
  • Expand their recycling IQ through mobile technology or by using a recyclepedia

An app like this works to consistently educate your employees, while giving them real-time access to usable information at the moment it makes a difference.

#3: Promote a Paper-Conscious Policy

When you think of your average workplace, you think of paper, printing, memos and binders. That’s why no office recycling program is complete without a paper-conscious policy.

Mindlessly printing anything and everything has got to go. Your new office paper recycling push will make sure that your employees digitize their communications as much as possible.

Paper recycling supports carbon sequestration and reduces climate change, so it has impact.

  • Use recycled paper and print on both sides
  • Put up signs discouraging printing in all forms unless absolutely necessary
  • Educate your employees on the social, economic and environmental impact of paper use

It’s also a good idea to get your janitorial staff on-board so that they know how to recycle paper at work, once it has been sorted.

#4: Create a Space for Recycled Office Supplies

By now, your green team must have noticed how many office supplies are being wasted every day. This has more to do with a lack of space, than intentional disregard for your recycling program.

Employees like things to be easy, and organized. Deliberately designate a space for recycled office supplies, and encourage office workers to drop their old and surplus supplies there.

  • Anything that can be reused should go in your reusable supply room
  • Stationary, used paper, furniture, broken technology, clothing – all extras
  • Whenever an employee needs something, they must check the room first

Only allow your employees into the new office supply room if there are no alternatives. Your new supplies should be made out of recycled materials if possible.

#5: Buy Products That Have Been Recycled

Part of your job as a green team is to make sure that your office recycling program saves your company money. This will involve some sleuthing on your part.

If your team notices that the company uses supplies that aren’t recycled, you can track down the budget being spent on them and improve it with a pitch for a cheaper, recycled product.

  • Investigate the cost of recycled products for your business
  • Help your company replace standard products with recycled products, for less money
  • There are hundreds of hundreds of brand products products that are made from recycled materials
  • Pitch your bosses and make an economic and environmental case for the change

Recycling programs for businesses work best when the green team is able to make these critical changes on an economic level. Be a company that recycles and uses recycled products.

#6: Run Weekly Recycling Challenges

You’ve had the meeting launching your corporate recycling program – but why should your employees care? To get better results from your team, make recycling a challenge.

Not just any challenge, one that has real world benefits if they win! Imagine if every week, the top recycler in every department got to go home an hour or two early?

Studies have suggested that friendly competition at work can motivate employees to achieve more and put in more effort where it counts.

Recognize their participation and your employees will support your sustainability goals.

  • Run weekly recycling challenges with a desirable reward
  • Leaving early, working from home, free lunches, special perks
  • Create levels of recognition – inter-departmental & consecutive wins

When there’s an attainable prize at the end of the week, your employees are likely to inspire each other to do better for you, and for the environment.

These small acts of recognition work especially well with Gen Z and Millennial employees, who feel fulfilled when they are acknowledged for doing something meaningful.

You’ll be improving your recycling practices and increasing loyalty to your brand.

#7: Set Fun Monthly Targets That Change

One of the best recycling tips we’ve ever seen in practice is to give everyone a clear and intentionally specific goal every month.

Your green team can switch it up, focusing on paper, plastic, cans or other materials to keep employees engaged and learning.

The key here is to set an easy, highly visible goal that will help boost your office recycling program results. Mentioning your goal in meetings will go a long way to keeping it top of mind.

  • A month dedicated to waste reduction, or a specific material, or initiative
  • Review your current recycling analytics and set an ambitious numerical goal (20%+)
  • Make your goal a big deal in your internal mails, newsletters & communication
  • Constantly update your goal every week

Pick a spot to showcase what your current goal is that month, and how close you are to achieving it. There should be a desirable company-wide reward if your goal is achieved.

These 7 easy ideas will help you whip your recycling program into shape. Take some time to discuss these points in a meeting with your green team. Decide which of these concepts you’ll implement to accelerate your program’s results this year.

With these improvements, your office recycling program will grow to become a cherished and ingrained part of your work culture. Each and every employee will take responsibility for the materials they use and the waste that they create.

It’s so important to understand the recycling IQ of your company, using new technology and stronger methods of gaining traction and visible results. Good luck!

Which of these simple improvements are you going to test out? Tell us below!


  1. Eli Richardson

    May 31, 2021 at 9:14 am

    It’s great that you talked about the importance of spreading recycling awareness in the workplace. Recently, my sister mentioned that in her office, they want to start a recycling program. I believe we need to start learning how to manage our waste in a better way, so I’ll be sure to share this article with her. Thanks for the advice on implementing a recycling program with goals and rewards.

    • April

      May 31, 2021 at 1:01 pm

      Thank you for sharing this with your sister! If her office needs any help implementing a program, please have them contact Recycle Coach about our resources for workplaces.

  2. Tammie Houston

    September 9, 2021 at 5:29 am

    My boss is asking us for any suggestions we may have to make our company greener so that we may improve our branding, this article is really helpful in giving me tips on what to do. I really like your suggestion about setting monthly targets for specific teams on collecting recyclable materials. It should not only motivate us to dispose of our waste properly but also to get some trash from their homes for proper disposal. We’ll have to contact a commercial recycling company to help with the management so that they can get the waste for us. It’s a great idea and I’ll be sure to pass it on to my boss.

  3. Mikhail Nasa

    September 13, 2022 at 11:29 pm

    These are great tips. But in my humble opinion, to actively practice them and make them as office culture are depend on the management.

    • April

      September 30, 2022 at 7:39 am

      Excellent point Mikhail. Management needs to be supportive of recycling efforts in order to maintain an effective recycling program. Employees can bring up the importance of recycling and sustainability to their management, but it is important for the people in charge to lead the efforts or allow employees to build a green team or sustainability team to lead these efforts.

  4. Mindful Market

    March 14, 2023 at 7:40 am

    Thank you for sharing information about office recycle program. Recycling is an important part of waste reduction. It’s great to see companies taking steps towards sustainability and reducing their environmental impact.

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