Sure, a company that goes green can be good for the Earth, but a study released this year by the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth found companies that invest — and promote — sustainability programs are also more likely to increase recruitment, retention and employee morale. Here's how to start an office-recycling program.

Sure, a company that goes green can be good for the Earth, but a study released this year by the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth found companies that invest — and promote — sustainability programs are also more likely to increase recruitment, retention and employee morale.


One way to launch an Earth-friendly initiative is by starting an office-recycling program. Jennifer Berry, a spokesperson for Earth911, a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based company that hosts the nation’s largest recycling directory, offered some tips for getting started.


1. Pick a leader. Choose someone — or a team of people — to lead the program. This person will be in charge of making sure the project runs smoothly. An office manager or someone who’s enthusiastic, well organized and a good communicator is ideal, Berry said. This person should expect to spend about an hour a month running the program. Asking for volunteers is a good way to get the job filled.


2. Talk with management. Speak with your company’s building manager to learn what recycling options are available. Maybe other companies in the building have recycling plans and a truck already comes to your building to pick up paper. If so, there’s a possibility your company could piggyback. However, pick-up services often require a higher volume of materials than most business can collect. If so, small haulers might be an option. These mom-and-pop shops operate with fewer trucks and employees. If your program leader is planning to take items to a recycling center, he or she can check Earth911.com to find drop-off locations. He or she can also find out what your area’s materials recovery facility will accept.


3. Examine what’s feasible. Look around your office — what sorts of things can be recycled? Paper, Berry said, is an obvious choice. In fact, she said it’s 37.5 percent of the waste stream. The real challenge, she said, is taking a look at what else your business can recycle. If your company keeps soda handy for employees, consider aluminum recycling. Items such as light bulbs, plastic bottles and phone books are also options.


4. Form an action plan. Communicate with employees how and where to recycle. This can be done through e-mails, memos, employee message boards and more. Also, be sure recycling bins are marked so workers clearly know what sorts of materials — paper, soda cans or plastic — should be placed inside. She said recycling programs work better when bins are placed near trash cans by employee desks, copy areas and kitchens.


5. Get employees to buy in. To get more people to take part, Berry suggests offering incentives. For instance, if the amount of materials recycled can be measured, set a goal for the year and treat employees to lunch when the mark is met. Some recycling programs also donate to a good cause — Berry said Verizon has a cell phone recycling program that benefits domestic abuse victims, while there are laptop recycling programs that give used computers to Haiti. “Test what works and gets people excited,” Berry said.


6. Communicate with cleanup staff. Make sure they know not to empty the bins into the garbage when they clean. Some details to figure out include whether custodians will empty recycling containers and, if so, whether your business will be charged more, as well as how often they will empty the bins.