How to Start a Recycling Program in a Small Business

The majority of large and established organisations will have had a recycling program set up for a number of years now. This will no doubt be a key element of their environmental policy and also may help them achieve the ISO14001 certification which is the recognised framework that covers environmental management systems. Many large companies will have a dedicated quality or facilities manager to look after this program whose job it is to make it a success.

For smaller companies or new businesses where resources are a little tighter, having dedicated staff to handle what most people would consider none essential activity is a resource they simply cannot afford. However, in a world today where the environment is a hot topic consumers and businesses are always looking for suppliers and partners who are environmentally aware. Introducing a recycling program is a good step in making a business more ‘Green’ and it may also save you money in waste disposal costs or even generate some extra income.

Our eight steps below will guide you through the basics of setting up a simple recycling program for a small business.

Number One

The first task is to understand what you’re throwing away. This may not be the most pleasant of tasks but there shouldn’t be a need to go hunting through the rubbish bins. Ask all employees to keep a log for a week of what they throw away. Of course not all people will complete the task but even if half the workforce do this should give you a good picture of what’s going into the bins. At this point also consider any waste you may generate from your business activity. For example, a printer may dispose of lots of waste paper and cardboard.

Number Two

Once you know what you’re throwing away you can then contact your local council of waste products disposal provider to establish what can be recycled in your area. At the time of writing this article there isn’t a nationwide approach to business waste and recycling in the UK. Some council’s will provide trade waste services, including recycling, whereas others may have recommended waste partners. Check with your local council to see what services are available in your area.

Number Three

Paper Recycling

Up to 80% of business waste has the ability to be recycled, however if you’re introducing a new system to your company then it’s best to start simple with heavily used items. Waste paper is the obvious starting point as most people will use and dispose of this during their working day. The induction of waste paper recycling bins around the office will allow people to dispose of their paper easily. A similar approach can be taken to cans and disposable plastic and cardboard cups. Batteries are another easy one, simply purchase a battery collection tube similar to those you may have seen in many supermarkets.

Waster toner and ink cartridges are also an excellent starting point. By returning your used and empty cartridges to one of the many collection companies in the UK you can generate cash as they will pay a small fee for each cartridge they collect. These companies will then either re-use or recycle the cartridges but crucially then ensure that nothing goes to landfill. Many charities, such as Age UK, will also happily take in used ink cartridges or electrical equipment as this helps them generate funds for their work.

Number Four

Nominate a recycling champion in your business to drive the program and develop new ideas. This ideally should be an individual who already has strong feelings about recycling and sustainability and will enthusiastically manage your program.

Number Five

To encourage people to follow the program it helps if the senior people within the business are seen to be evolved and supporting it. If the business owner or directors are visibly doing their part and talking to staff about the benefits then most people will be keen to follow suit.

Number Six

Communication is also important to success, don’t simply place a few bins around the business premises and hope people get the idea. If you have team meetings or staff briefings then spend five minutes talking about the program and its benefits to the organisation.

Number Seven

Make sure your cleaners are aware of the recycling program. There are numerous stories of businesses consciously separating their waste and employees buying into the whole process only for the cleaners to come along at night and put all the rubbish into the same bag and deposit it into general waste. As long as the cleaners understand your objectives then they will be happy to work with you.

Number Eight

Once you have your program successfully up and running make sure you make your customers, clients, suppliers or even local media aware. Companies that make the effort to develop socially responsible business practices are a great story and you may be able to generate positive publicity for your company of the back of your efforts.


Carl Barton is a director of Office Allsorts who has worked in the office products industry for 15 years.

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