The recycling rate in the U.S. isn't what you might think it is. Data from the year 2014 shows that it's just over 34%, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This means that, out of the 258 million tons of municipal solid waste, only 89 million were recycled.
With 136 million tons of waste landfilled in one year alone, it's clear that there's a recycling problem. Refuse that sits in landfills does exactly that — it sits there. While some products do degrade, plenty of them are here to stay for the long haul. But it doesn't have to be that way.
Plastics, metals, glass, paper, and other items can go from landfill fillers to brand-new (that it, brand-new reused) products. Recycling allows manufacturers to turn what's old into something new, reducing the amount of trash in landfills, saving energy, and helping the planet. If your company doesn't recycle right now, changing your policies is the first step in changing the world.
How can you get your employees to get onboard and start recycling? Take a look at what you need to do to kick off, and sustain, a business-wide recycling program.
MAKE IT FUN
Garbage isn't exactly exciting. Your employees probably don't give much, if any, thought to what they throw away. They're more concerned with doing their jobs, earning money, and getting through their days in the best way possible.
Even though trash isn't an amazing adventure, you can make recycling fun for your employees. Hold a contest to see who recycles the most, invite everyone to decorate the recycling bins, or weigh the weekly recyclables and ask everyone to guess the number (the employee who is the closest wins a prize).
GO WITH THE FACTS
When faced with the facts about recyclables and waste products, your employees might start listening — and responding. Make a poster to hang up, send out an email, or have an employee meeting to share the facts.
Include major points such as the total amount of garbage waste the Americans create per year (again, that's roughly 258 million tons), how much waste businesses and corporations create (about 45% of the total waste), and how long it takes different types of garbage to break down.
If the numbers don't get to your employees, try something that's more visual. Print out photos of landfills to point out what tons of waste looks like.
You can also add in the energy savings that recycling provides and facts on what different products are recycled into. For example, glass that you recycle right now can be transformed into a new product and ready for sale in as little as 30 days.
RECYCLE WITH EASE
If the recycling bins are in the building's basement, chances are your employees won't use them. A few individuals who have always expressed a concern about the environment may not care that it's not easy to toss their cans and bottles in the proper bins. But everyone else is likely to continue on with their regular trash habits.
Instead of making it seem like there's a maze protecting the recyclable bins, put them somewhere that's easily accessible to everyone. This may mean setting up bins on each floor in different areas or picking convenient central area (such as a break room).
Don't forget to label the bins. Make sure that there is a clear distinction between the regular trash cans and the recycling bins. If you have separate bins for plastics, glass, metal, and paper, clearly label each. Tape a picture of what goes in each bin on the outside as well. This makes it easier for everyone to understand which bin is for what.