Adopting a Recycling Program

Your company has the power to make a positive impact on the environment. By adopting a recycling program, your company can reduce the energy required to make products from virgin materials, reduce emissions from incinerators and landfills, and conserve precious natural resources. By using your buying power, your company can influence the market towards products with a high percentage of recycled content.

By following the next ten steps, your business can begin implementing a recycling program:

Step 1: Developing a Strategy for Winning Senior Leadership Support

Your company has the power to make a positive impact on the environment. By adopting a recycling program, your company can reduce the energy required to make products from virgin materials, reduce emissions from incinerators and landfills, and conserve precious natural resources. By using your buying power, your company can influence the market towards products with a high percentage of recycled content.

By following the next ten steps, your business can begin implementing a recycling program:

Step 2: Setting Up a Recycling Team

Forming a recycling team helps to ensure a successful program. The recycling team will gather information, plan, implement, and manage the program. The leader of the team should be directly responsible for implementing the recycling program and have an interest in the project. The recycling team should include employees from many parts of the organization, including regional representatives if your company is large. Certain key employees, such as custodial staff should be integrally involved in creating the collection system since they will be relied on to implement important aspects of the program.

Step 3: Know Your Waste

A key step in developing a recycling program is to determine what waste your company generates. The best way to determine this is to conduct a waste assessment to gather detailed information about your company’s waste. The results from the waste assessment can be used to establish waste reduction and recycling goals and to monitor progress.

A waste assessment can be performed by reviewing your monthly waste disposal invoices. These invoices can be used to determine not only the type and amount of waste being disposed of by your company, but also how you are being charged, either by the pull or by weight. By obtaining back invoices, you can put together a picture of your yearly waste disposal charges and/or weights and amounts. All this information will give you a baseline from which you can track your future progress.

Keep in mind that you may be charged the same amount whether the garbage dumpster is completely full or nearly empty, so consider reducing the frequency of pickups or the size of your garbage dumpster to save money.

A walk-through of your facility is important for learning about what type of waste is being discarded in each area. A walk-through also helps identify waste reduction opportunities.

Step 4: Find a Recycling Vendor

After you determine what types of waste your company generates, find out which wastes can be recycled. Common materials that can be recycled include paper, cardboard, glass, scrap metals, aluminum and steel cans, plastic containers (usually #1 and 2), plastic wrapping, electronics, and beverage containers. In some cases, recycling vendors collect materials for free and may even pay you for your materials. So shop around to make sure you are getting the best deal. For a list of local vendors, use the business yellow pages and search on “Waste Management”.

If you cannot contract with a recycling vendor, another option is to take your recyclables to a drop-off center. Drop-off centers can also help you expand your program because they often accept items that cannot be picked up. For a list of drop-off centers, visit the Salt Lake Valley Recycling Guide.

Salt Lake City manages the Recycle Market Development Zone Program that assists businesses that collect, process, distribute or use recycled materials in their manufacturing operations or compost. Eligible recycling businesses qualify for:

  • 5% State tax credit on machinery and equipment; and,
  • 20% State tax credit (up to $2,000) on eligible operating expenses.

Visit the Salt Lake City Green’s Guide to a Sustainable City for more information.

Consider talking with manufacturers about take-back programs for disposing of products such as computer electronics at the end of their useful lives. Battery manufacturers also have begun programs to help users properly dispose of used batteries.

Step 5: Set Up Your Recycling Collection Contract

In order to negotiate the best deal with your recycling vendor, make sure you have determined your own priorities prior to negotiating. Consider including the following specifics in the contract:

  • Final Destination
    Specify that the recyclables are, in fact, recycled and manufactured into usable products.
  • Costs
    Specify all services to be included in the contract including the expense of pick-up and loading.
  • Pick-up Sites
    Designate pick-up sites with a provision that allows more sites to be added without a change in price, term, or conditions of the contract. Include specific information on the location of the pick-up point, e.g., from dock or street level.
  • Preparation for Pick-up
    State how the recyclables will be prepared for pick-up and whether the contractor will supply the containers, pallets, or cardboard baler.
  • Pick-up Frequency
    Include information on how often the recyclables will be picked up.
  • Type and Amount of Material
    Include the amount and type of material to be picked up since the different materials are paid at different rates. Include the same information on the pick-up slips.
  • Minimum Size of Pick-up
    Specify a minimum pick-up amount, such as 400 pounds per location and state “unless the contractor agrees to accept a smaller quantity.”
  • Pick-up Slips
    State that a pick-up receipt should be left with the office manager. Your contract should specify the extent to which the recycled materials are clean, consistent, and contaminant-free.

Step 6: Set Your Waste Reduction Goals

The next step is to define your waste reduction goals. Start with a small, manageable recycling project. Remember to first consider activities that actually prevent waste from being generated. Then, examine the waste that is generated to determine which materials could be collected for recycling. Several small successful pilot projects will help you gain additional support and credibility. Then you can expand your program little by little over a period of time, such as three to five years depending on resources for containers and other company goals.

Step 7: Set Up Recycling Containers and Coordinate Collection

After deciding on what materials to recycle and negotiating a contract with a recycling vendor, it is time to set up your collection system. Different types of containers will be needed, such as smaller bins for workstations and larger centrally located indoor containers. Mobile collection carts may be needed to transport recyclables from central indoor containers to central outdoor containers. Place containers in strategic locations and make sure they are labeled clearly. You may want to consider the following:

Place a recycling container near every trash can or provide recycling containers at each workstation and trash cans in a central location.

  • Place larger recycling containers for paper collection near printers, copiers, and in mailrooms.
  • Place containers for plastic bottles, aluminum cans, newspapers, magazines, and cardboard in break rooms, shops, packaging departments or other central locations.

Coordinate the collection of recyclables from the central indoor containers to the outdoor storage area with the recycling vendor, janitorial crew, and staff. When the janitorial contract is being renewed, include the recycling duties in the contract. Considering that your janitorial contractor will be collecting the same amount of material and if receptacles are located close to the trash cans, the additional amount of time and effort required will be minimal. Make sure to identify who will empty and clean central containers and at what frequency.

Used fluorescent lamps should be stored in the boxes in which the new lamps came and then collected by a fluorescent lamp recycler for recycling of this hazardous material.

Step 8: Close the Loop by Buying Products with Recycled Content

In order to make recycling economically viable, there must be a market for recycled products. If companies purchase products with recycled content, then companies will be encouraged to make them, and the whole system works.

Step 9: Initiating an Education and Awareness Effort

Education is the key to a successful recycling program for any company. The more you can educate, the higher the participation you will have, the fewer contaminants you’ll find in the collected materials, and the more efficient your program will be in the long run. Your education program should be available to existing as well as new employees.

Send an email from senior management announcing the recycling program and the importance of their cooperation and involvement. Make sure to inform employees about the goals of the recycling program and how your company, employees, and the environment benefit from the recycling program. Use a variety of ways to educate employees, such as staff meetings, employee newsletters, posters, emails, and special events.

Provide information on how to participate in the recycling program in the kick-off memo or short training sessions can be used to explain the details of the program. Your program should stress the importance of minimizing contamination and collecting high-quality recyclables.

Step 10: Celebrating Your Successes

Provide regular updates to employees and management about your recycling program in newsletters (preferably on-line) and meetings, using data from your records. Consider equating your company’s successes in terms of the number of trees spared or the amount of waste diverted from the landfill. Two good resources to use for environmental “factoids” are:

Publicize program successes and give credit—and even reward—to workers handling the materials daily. If the program generates any revenue, managers can decide how much goes back into the department budget and how much goes to reward department employees.


Eleanor Divver (, Business Assistance Coordinator: (801) 536-0091

Last Updated:


Back to top