These bins pictured at Tarkett World Headquarters show how to use the keys to workplace recycling success. 2019. For Businesses

Keys to Workplace Recycling Success

Doreen Schreiber

The staff of Solid Waste District teaches several important keys to workplace recycling success and how to make it happen. We learned these steps from social psychologists who have been studying recycling behavior for over 25 years. And, if you skip one of these keys or steps, your program may not be a success.

Creating Recycling Success

  • Consistency: Maintain uniformity in the color of your recycling containers throughout the building. Containers should be blue or green, which is universally recognized for recycling.
  • Signage: Place proper signage with clear messages on all containers for both landfill and recyclables.
  • Togetherness: Marry the containers together. Landfill containers must always be next to recycling containers.
  • Convenience: Make it easy. The containers must be placed in convenient locations to encourage recycling behavior.
  • Education: Constant reminders about proper recycling are a must.

Challenges arise when other departments in universities, hospitals and corporations, like marketing or public relations, become involved in the process. They may choose and place recycling containers and signage that are aesthetically pleasing. But, even though the containers are attractive, the system will fail because the keys to success were not followed.

I recently assisted employees at Tarkett Inc. North America world headquarters in Solon, Ohio with identifying and implementing these keys to workplace recycling success.

Common Mistakes That Cause Failure

  • Landfill and recycling containers are both the same color, often silver or gold, and are not the color of universally-recognized recycling or landfill containers.
  • The shape of the opening for recyclables is not convenient.
  • The landfill and recycling containers are not placed next to each other. Even worse, the containers aren’t in the same room or in convenient locations.
  • The wording on the container is not correct or not properly placed. Or, it’s only visible on one side of the container. Oftentimes, maintenance staff replace the containers with the recycling information facing the wall.
  • Wording stamped on the containers is permanent and does not allow for changes in what can or cannot be recycled as the markets change. The containers should allow for sign changes if the program changes.
  • Use of fancy signs that have lots of words, a complicated message and are confusing or unclear.
  • Constant education is missing or there is no education for employees about the recycling program.

The staff person in charge of setting up the workplace recycling program should make everyone aware of the keys to workplace recycling success. By working together and informing marketing, public relations or other departments on how to have recycling success, you’ll create a program that pleases everyone while meeting your recycling goals.

About the Author

Doreen Schreiber is the business recycling specialist for the Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District. For assistance on setting up a recycling program at a business or workplace in Cuyahoga County, call (216) 443-3732.