It began with recycling aluminum cans. Many of us were drinking canned soft drinks, so we installed a can crusher on the wall in our employee kitchen and placed a lined plastic garbage can under it. After empty cans were crushed, they simply fell into the lined garbage can. Once a bag became half-full, we took it to the local recycling center and redeemed it for cash. The money was then used to buy Dairy Queen treats for the office.
Next, it was paper and cardboard. We spoke with our waste collector and found that by choosing one day of the week to recycle paper and cardboard (Thursday worked best), we could reduce the quantity of pick-ups. In addition to helping the environment, this method of recycling actually saved the company money.
Then, plastic recycling tubs were placed under our desks and a we put a large tub in the fax/copier area. We designated a 4’ x 8’ area in our file room to collect corrugated cardboard during the week. On Thursdays, we spend 15 minutes dumping our tubs into a large pick-up can where it’s then pulled to the outdoor trash area near our employee entrance. The corrugated cardboard is broken down, placed in saved corrugated cardboard boxes, and set out with the paper to await for pickup. It’s gone before the end of our work day.
Next, we tackled the prospect of recycling plastic bottles. A garbage can was placed in our kitchen specifically for PET and polyethylene bottles. We began noticing that the employees who didn’t have recycling collection at home began bringing their used bottles too. This presented two more opportunities: batteries and plastic bags.
We only needed three square feet of space to accomplish this. For batteries, we placed a basket next to our shredding area. For plastic bags, we placed a plastic laundry hamper in the same area. As we began recycling the batteries from various office tools, the plastic bags from our lunches, the used packing materials and mailing sleeves, we once again found that our employees were continuing the effort by bringing their own used batteries and plastic bags from home.
The batteries are recycled at the Interstate Battery Store, located just a couple of blocks away from our office. Interstate has taken it upon themselves to collect and store used batteries until a recycling center in the area is identified. The laundry hamper full of plastic bags is taken to a local grocery store where they happily accept them.
Finally, our IT coordinator began accepting copier and printer cartridges for his church to recycle. As a result of this, we’ve been able to divert 50% of our spent cartridges to support his efforts.
We seem to be treating this process casually and consistently. The reality of recycling is that it doesn’t take much time or require huge amounts of extra space and, in the end, we save the company money. We enjoy this small group effort for a variety of reasons, and rewarding our employees with ice cream certainly adds to the enjoyment.