Office Recycling 101

Posted on March 17, 2018 | Last Updated On: September 14th, 2020 by

The amount of waste we produce is growing day by day, and our offices play a large part in it!

If you start recycling in the office, not only will you help save the planet, but you can also help your company save money.

In this guide, we’ll show you how to get into office recycling with ease and without problems.

Benefits of Recycling

There are many advantages to office recycling. Protecting the environment will always be at the top of the list. Recycling at work also reduces the amount of waste that goes to landfill sites, and helps the company save money!

The United States produces more trash per capita than any other country, at 760kgs per person per year. Reducing the amount of corporate waste that ends up in a landfill is, therefore, a critical environmental priority.

Nor is it just a reduction in the amount of corporate waste going to landfill that benefits the environment. The energy savings are enormous. Creating a single aluminum can from recycled materials reduces the energy used to produce that can by 95% when compared to making it from virgin bauxite ore. Meanwhile, recycling a ton of office paper saves:

  •   4,100 kWh of energy
  •   7,000 gallons of water
  •   9 barrels of oil
  •   54 million BTU’s of energy

Saving Money Through Recycling

Office recycling also has a host of other advantages. For many companies, the ability to save money through recycling in the workplace is a significant incentive.

Reducing the amount of waste produced can mean reducing the cost of dealing with that waste. A comprehensive recycling program can, therefore, lead to savings that would tempt even the least environmentally friendly management team.

Team Benefits

Recycling in the office can also have positive effects on the cohesiveness of a team. As it’s something common to all employees, companies often observe increased team co-operation and discussions.

Furthermore, office recycling can be taken to a new level, and seaside trash pickup days can be used as team building and helping employees (and their families) learn more about the environment. Though you will find that they might initially need some encouragement to attend, you should never force such events as that can have a negative impact.

PR Benefits

Another benefit of recycling is the positive PR associated with going green and acting as a more socially responsible business.

Furthermore, recycling is good for the economy. Researchers at Stanford University showed that, in the state of California, every single job that is created in recycling collection equates to eight jobs created in the manufacturing of those recycled materials (a far higher ratio than for general waste management).

Some Disadvantages

That’s not to say that there are no disadvantages to office recycling programs. Such programs usually require an initial outlay of capital, which can be off-putting to those holding the business purse strings. However, a focus on the longer-term advantages of corporate recycling can usually overcome these initial concerns.

Corporate Waste

Corporate waste poses a problem around the world. Offices generate a considerable volume of paper waste. Not to mention waste items such as print cartridges, plastic water cooler beakers and much more. Just 53.4% of paper products in the US are recycled, while US citizens throw away around 1 billion trees worth of paper each year. Clearly, a lot more needs doing!

Americans use some 85 million tons of paper per year. Understandably, corporate waste in the US is a major contributor to landfill sites. One estimate judges that 16% of solid landfill waste is made up of paper products. An average office worker gets through 500 paper cups per year and prints hundreds of pages. Just thinking about that should show the scale of the issue.

Office Recycling Programs

Office recycling programs can have a big impact on the issue of corporate waste. By taking action at a business level, a company can enable every single individual within that business to reduce their environmental impact.

Environmental awareness at work can even encourage greener practices in the home. Thereby multiplying the beneficial impact of business recycling programs.

The most basic of recycling programs in the workplace starts with office recycling bins for paper waste!

Companies looking to operate larger scale recycling schemes can also provide recycling points for aluminum cans, plastic items, glass products, print cartridges, batteries and even compostable items such as food waste from employees’ meals.

While reducing an office’s waste so that absolutely nothing goes to landfill is something of a challenge. Putting a recycling program in place that deals with 80-90% of a business’ waste is surprisingly easy.

Office Paper Recycling

Office paper recycling is the obvious starting point. The Paperless Project reports that the average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of copy paper every single year. The staggering figure highlights the scale of the issue. Yet dealing with it is as simple as installing paper recycling bins in each office. Then arranging for the paper in them to be collected and recycled regularly.

Ensuring that every printer and photocopier in the company is set to double-sided printing by default is also a simple yet effective way of reducing the amount of paper sent to landfill.

Despite that, some 45% of used office paper is still ending up in the trash rather than being fed into recycling programs. Across the globe, this means that more than a trillion sheets of paper are needlessly sent to landfill every year.

Companies with concerns over data protection issues can still implement office paper recycling programs. Many recycling companies offer shredding services for paper items so that businesses can know that their paper recycling complies with all regulatory requirements relating to data protection.

How to Recycle

Now that you’ve learned about the issues, problems, and benefits, it’s time for your company to implement a recycling plan

Getting Started

Initiating a recycling program in the workplace is easy!

From local authority initiatives to private enterprises, there are a plethora of schemes available to assist with corporate recycling. Most recycling companies will provide recycling boxes themselves. Each box clearly indicating what can and can’t be recycled in it.

Many companies find it useful to phase out waste bins at the same time as they introduce office recycling points.

Rather than each employee having a small trashcan by their desk, employers can encourage recycling by having only one general waste point per floor (or a couple of general waste points, in the case of larger offices).

That way, the temptation to throw something into the trash when in a hurry, rather than recycling it, is removed. Instead, employees have no option but to recycle their waste materials.

Thinking through where to put recycling boxes can also help. Printers and photocopiers are the prominent places to put paper recycling bins. While a canteen or lunchroom can host aluminum, plastic, and glass recycling boxes and compostable waste containers.

However, there are less obvious places that need considering. A reception area where guests have access to a water cooler with either plastic or paper cups will require an accompanying recycling point if those cups aren’t to end up in the trash. Likewise, staff bathrooms should have recycling boxes for paper towel waste.

Employee Engagement

With the practical side of office recycling taken care of, it then falls to employers to educate their staff about recycling.

Explaining the reasons behind a new recycling program can help to engage employees in the process and ensure they buy into minimizing the amount of corporate waste that ends up in a landfill.

Employers can also consider how they implement their business recycling programs. It should be done timely, with enough education given to employees, so that they are always in the loop and know what to do.

Many companies have also implemented, rewards and games based around recycling to incentivize employees into maintaining recycling.

The Bigger Picture

Companies should also think about their recycling at a corporate level. While ensuring that individual employees recycle will do much to address the amount of waste going to landfill, it’s also important to think about how to recycle larger items such as computers, laptops, printers, cell phones, tablets and so forth.

Whether as part of routine hardware upgrades or in response to particular equipment failure, businesses regularly replace these kinds of items.

Once data protection concerns have been addressed, for example through the secure destruction or overwriting of hard drives, electronic items can be exchanged for discounts on new products with many corporate suppliers, or else sold on sites like eBay to recoup some part of the investment in them.

There are also charities that recondition electronic items and put them to good use either in domestic settings or overseas. In this day and age, there’s no reason that electronic office equipment should ever end up in a landfill.

Collection and Disposal

A big part of knowing how to recycle corporate materials successfully is ensuring that appropriate collection and disposal arrangements in place.

This will vary from office to office. While larger companies can buy in recycling schemes that take care of every conceivable item, small companies might prefer to make arrangements more suited to their particular needs.

After all, it might prove more cost-effective to have one staff member agree to drop used batteries off at their local supermarket’s collection point at the end of each week rather than buy in a specific service for this (depending on how many batteries the company usually gets through!).

There’s no single right way to recycle – what’s important is that it gets done.

Office Recycle Bins

Office recycling bins are available for all manner of items. They range from small bins that are designed to go on or under individual employees’ desks, to larger recycling bins that can be placed in communal areas.

Naturally, bin sizes equate to the likely volume of their contents; most offices have far more paper to recycle than glass, for example.

Setting up office recycling bins is far from a dull business necessity – it all depends on how creative you want to be. From a can crusher that’s set up ready for crushed soda cans to be shot through a basketball hoop into their recycling container, to desktop vermicomposting units that see worms tackling corporate composting needs, business recycling programs can be as creative as those who roll them out.

An innovative approach can even mean that enhanced staff engagement with the company ethos becomes one of the benefits of recycling.

Recycling Tips

As with any new initiative, there are a few quick wins that companies can implement easily. Corporate recycling tips start with not creating waste in the first place.

Printer Check

Modern printers, for example, can be set up, so that staff members have to press a button on the printer before their documents print. It’s surprising how many misprints such a simple step can prevent.

Recycling Champions

Recycling champions are another great tip. Finding staff members who care deeply about the planet and putting them in charge of recycling can assure those individuals that their interests are being furthered in the workplace. It also formally gives them the authority to encourage their colleagues to recycle.

Personalized Recycling

Mini recycling trays on desks are another good idea. Staff can empty these into larger office recycling bins at the end of each day for maximum ease of use.

It’s also essential to ensure that recycling points are kept clean and tidy; little will put people off recycling as quickly as a recycling point that is smelly and dirty.

Involving The Employees

Sharing waste reduction progress with staff is another great recycling tip. Doing so ensures that staff sees the impact of their efforts. Having waste reduction targets can encourage employee engagement even more, particularly if there is an element of financial reward linked to targets being hit.

An element of competition can also be helpful and is a great way for companies that have more than one office to give their corporate recycling efforts a boost.

Recycling Posters

Recycling posters can help to encourage the uptake of recycling in corporate environments. Posters don’t have to simply convey details of what can be recycled and how it is done. Like office recycling programs themselves, posters can be used creatively.

For example, recycling posters can be used to incentivize recycling. They could invite staff to come up with new ideas for recycling, with rewards for those who think up ways to reduce landfill the most, or who come up with ideas that save the company money while also increasing the amount of waste that it recycles.

You can use some of our infographics for this, or the University of Cambridge also has some great resources. 

Office Recycling Recap

Business recycling programs are an important part of ensuring a better future for the coming generations.

Increasing the amount of office waste that we recycle can benefit the environment in multiple ways (including reducing landfill, energy consumption, and raw material requirements) as well as saving companies money.

With a little imagination, recycling can also enhance employee engagement and improve a business’ reputation in the eyes of its customers and the general public.

The key to successful office recycling is to make it easy for employees to do and to ensure that the staff feels that their engagement with the recycling scheme is valued. Doing so is within the power of every company, no matter how large or small. Quite simply, together we can make the world a better place.

About the Author

Douglas Lober Chief Product Specialist

Doug Lober is Co-Founder and Chief Product Specialist for Lober is a passionate environmentalist with roots in the Southern California surf culture. Over the last 15 years, Lober has launched and supported a number of environmental initiatives around the land, sea, and air. Today, he continues to provide and support the use of eco-friendly promotional products for small, medium, and Fortune 500 companies. You can learn more about his extensive background in the industry on,,, Twitter and

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