Any organisation that strives to reduce waste and improve recycling depends on the knowledge and cooperation of its people. It also depends on coordination of their efforts and systems for them to follow.
Rarely do these things come about by chance. They’re the result of careful design, training and ongoing improvements. Starting with a plan, a good recycling program provides for all these needs.
Every organisation is different, but the steps set out in this 3 part series will cover most office needs.
Step 1: Motivation — Start with Why
No matter how good or bad a recycler you are at the outset, improving your entire organisation’s habits is an exercise in leadership and change management. It calls for the support of everyone, from your most senior to your most junior staff members.
A good place to start then, is to create a list of compelling reasons that’s long enough to convince everybody that change is worthwhile. If you’re the person leading the initiative, remember that others will see things differently to you.
Ask a group of vegans what motivates them to be vegans and you’ll get at least four different answers. Some hate the idea of killing animals, some are motivated by the negative environmental impacts of livestock farming, others attest by the health benefits of a plant based diet, while others have found it helps them lose weight.
The same holds true for recyclers. Some love the idea of safeguarding the environment, but there are many other valid reasons, too. For example:
- Tangible cost benefits from reduced consumption, waste haulage and landfill charges.
- Improving your recycling will cultivate some valuable organisation-wide habits. To name but a few: Auditing, reporting, communication and inter-departmental cooperation. Striving for excellence in an area that’s not directly connected with your main line of business can have far reaching positive effects in other areas of your operation. See The Amazing Story Behind Alcoa’s Profits Explosion.
- Many improvements in recycling are quite easy to pull off, at least in the early part of your journey. Publicising and celebrating progress can help staff find more meaning in their work and boost morale for relatively little input.
- Attention to recycling and other sustainability issues can make you more attractive as an employer, helping you hire the right talent affordably and reducing staff turnover rates.
- Your environmental track record can improve your standing with customers and differentiate you from competitors.
- Become one of the best recyclers in your industry, your city, your state or your country and you can expect positive publicity. You’ll earn recognition from peers, customers, the general public, the media and government.
Step 2: Put Together a Recycling Team
The more serious you get about recycling, the more you’ll need to coordinate efforts across departments.
A recycling program can have far reaching effects on all your activities. It may ultimately impact the materials you buy and use throughout your operation, packaging, shipping, mailing and billing, facilities management, printing, production processes and marketing. It may also call for input from your accounting, general admin and IT departments.
As such it’s important to have a representative from every department on the team, particularly for medium and large sized organisations. Ideally the team should comprise members who are keen to champion the recycling cause.
Under the stewardship of a recycling team leader, whom they should elect, team members will be responsible for helping set goals, coordinating efforts and fostering cooperation between departments, train, monitor and report on progress.
Jump to Part 2: Conducting a Waste Audit and Setting Recycling Goals
Jump to Part 3: Launching, Managing and Monitoring