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Optimize Your Recycling Program

Recycling is a big part of every facilities management program – and getting bigger. Recent research from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that Americans have increased the amount of waste they recycle from less than 7 percent in 1960 to 32 percent today1.

Add the increased interest in sustainability from the general public, and a robust recycling program is no longer a nice-to-have option, but a baseline expectation of workers and your customers.

By the way, recycling isn’t just about long-term sustainability. The EPA also estimates that recycling and reuse activities in the United States account for 681,000 jobs and $37.8 billion in wages.

The best news? Office waste is up to 94 percent recyclable, which means commercial spaces can show meaningful, measurable results with the right program. The first step to starting or upgrading your in-house recycling program is partnering with your facilities management team.


Most office waste falls into the following, broad categories:

  • Recyclable paper products
  • Discarded food and other compostable products
  • Plastic and glass

With these categories in mind, ask your facilities services partner to conduct a waste audit. The audit looks at an average day’s waste in your space, giving a real-time view of what is thrown out, what’s recycled, and how that ratio can be improved. Most importantly, it allows you to set measurable recycling goals for your organization.

Here are the basic steps of a waste audit:

  • Collect trash from workspaces, outdoor spaces, offices, and washrooms.
  • Sort waste by type, based on the categories above.
  • Put the sorted waste into bags and weigh each category.
  • Don’t forget your onsite cafeteria, if you have one. Look at food waste for the day and weigh or otherwise measure the amount thrown out (how many garbage bags, for instance).
  • Record the amounts for each category by total weight and by percentages.


Once the audit is complete, you can start setting goals. These goals can be part of an incremental program over time – that is, first food waste, then paper, then plastics, and so on – or a comprehensive program to reduce overall waste by a certain percentage.

Here’s where an experienced facilities management provider comes in. Ask your facilities team to help you set realistic, achievable recycling goals. This is one of their areas of expertise.

Your custodial provider, for example, knows better than anyone what’s going into your trash cans. Your provider can share insight about the most obvious opportunities to reduce waste – the “low-hanging fruit” – and recommended first steps.

As with any facilities initiative, it’s helpful to choose a manager or administrator to work with the supervisor of your onsite custodial team. This single point of contact keeps communication flowing – one of the most important aspects of any new program.


A few simple actions can make all the difference in your commercial space. Some of the easiest ways to take your sustainability efforts to the next level include the following.


Place paper recycling bins in offices, workspaces, break rooms, and other common areas.

  • Make colorful signs or labels for the bins, so staff and visitors know exactly what to put in.
  • Ask your facilities management provider to share information about how the recycling process works after paper products leave your location.


A composting program is a great way to reduce food waste. There are actually a growing number of urban composting businesses that will pick up your compostable waste on a regular schedule.

  • Get your landscaping team involved by recycling grass clippings as well.
  • Composting programs are a great way to support community gardens or farms in your area.
  • Ask your facilities provider about compostable utensils or food containers if you have an onsite cafeteria. An experienced provider can advise on costs and benefits of compostable food service items.


Team up with your facilities services partner to create clearly labeled recycling stations for plastic, metal, and glass. These can be placed discreetly throughout your commercial space, making it easy for workers and visitors to use them.

  • Your facilities team can also help explain which items are recyclable (like aluminum cans) and which are not (for example, broken light bulbs). This can vary from one recycling center to the next, so it’s important to rely on your team’s expertise for best results.
  • Almost all glass food or drink containers are completely recyclable. Because glass probably makes up a small percentage of your school’s total recyclables, it’s an easy way to “dip your toes” into a recycling program.


Remember, a new recycling program can take a while to gain momentum. With the right encouragement and resources in place, everyone entering your commercial space can change their habits over time. Just stay motivated, focus on your organization’s goals, and rely on your facilities management team for support.


Here are some reliable resources for commercial property owners and managers who want to learn more about recycling:


Want to know more about how the right facilities management partner can help your commercial property optimize your recycling program? Contact us at [email protected].


The illustrations, instructions, and principles contained in this website are general in scope and for marketing purposes. We assume no responsibility for: managing or controlling customer activities, implementing any recommended measures, or identifying all potential hazards.


1EPA: Facts and Figures about Materials, Waste, and Recycling