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Chances are that your business has lots of materials in your waste stream (going to landfills) that could be recycled. Whether it is corrugated cardboard, paper, newsprint, PET plastics, HPDE plastic, foam, scrap metals, radiators, used beverage cans, bottles, core tubes, or numerous other materials, the chances are good that there is a market for some of your waste stream. If your business is interested in starting an in-house waste recycling program, the biggest question people have is, how do you get started?

Below are 10 easy steps to getting started in your recycling endeavor. Of course there are steps within each of these steps and additional steps as well that must be taken as the depth of your program expands. Thus, the items listed are not intended to be a complete list but only some basic guidelines for getting the program started.

1.  Identify Potential Recyclables and Educate Yourself. Identify the recyclables that are in your waste stream and educate yourself on what you must know in order to sell them. It may be best to start with the recyclable material that you discard the most of and then implement others later. After you have a system in place for recycling the first material, it is usually much easier to add other materials to the existing infrastructure. Buyers are going to be interested in how much of the recyclable your business is producing, and what quality you are producing.  So basically by taking a close look at the most predominant material first and investigating every aspect, it will help you determine how much the recycling program would benefit your business, as well as a Recycler.  During this initial step it may be necessary to conduct a waste audit so that you can better understand your waste stream. The waste audit may help you decide which material to start with based on all factors considered such as volume, contamination, separation, storage and transportation. Be prepared to organize the information that has been gathered so that it can be communicated properly to upper management.

2.  Upper Management Approval - Upon completion of the information gathering stage, the next step is for upper management to approve the Recycling program and communicate this to employees. If employees know that the Recycling Program has won the support of upper management it will be much easier to rally the employees to embrace the program as well.

3.  Decide on a Waste Recycling Coordinator and/or Committee - Depending upon the size of the Recycling Program, a Recycling Coordinator should be established who is capable of maintaining good communications with upper management, vendors and employees. In addition, depending upon the size of the Recycling Program, a Recycling Committee (or Waste Reduction Committee) may need to be established as well. The Recycling Coordinator (and the Committee, if applicable) should create a mission statement and guidelines that upper management agrees with. From there, the other details of implementation can evolve more easily. Having a well defined and understood mission statement can help guide employees, especially when they find themselves needing to make a decision on something where there is no guidelines or policies. The establishment of guidelines will need to cover many areas such as collection routines, pick-up and transportation of the recyclable, equipment that will be utilized, establishing benchmarks, as well as reporting procedures and correspondence with fellow employees and possibly others in the community.  This should also include specific employee functions related to all aspects of the Recycling Program such as employee education and ongoing program evaluation.

4.  Pinpoint Vendors and Create a Market for Recyclables - Another important step during the early stages is to pinpoint vendors who will purchase the recyclables.  This is something you can accomplish by simply doing some internet searches or looking in the phone book, but you still want to do some research prior to contacting these vendors since there is specific information and criteria that they will require.  Recycling markets and resources are usually easy to identify, but there is also a tremendous amount of information available through your local government recycling offices, or even the closest Chamber of Commerce.  Since recycling is very common and widespread, the market for your particular material(s) should be fairly routine and ‘seasoned’.  To a large extent this will be dependent upon the volume and quality of your recyclables. Some will require materials that are extremely clean, consistent and contaminant-free while others will be less stringent.  One thing that will remain constant is that the higher the quality, the more money the recyclables will bring. Oftentimes the vendors will require samples, and ultimately the vendors will want to have an agreement that states what criteria they expect so this step is very important.  Oftentimes, even when the volume and quality is not the best, by baling the material, it will provide a means for the baled material to be picked up by a Recycler at no charge (in exchange for the baled material).  In a worst case scenario where you simply get free pick-up of your baled materials (and no revenues) it means that this portion of ‘waste’ from the waste stream has been removed. Thus, a worst case scenario when utilizing a baler is that it should still be more economically feasible than if the business had to continue paying for the hauling and disposal costs of the materials.

5.  Decide on materials to Recycle - After consideration of all the information gathered as well as the feedback received by the vendors, it is important to ‘officially’ decide which recyclable you will start with and to set recycling objectives on a weekly or monthly basis.

6.  Decide on Collection System - After deciding on which material to recycle, you will also need to carefully consider and devise the best collection system.  In order for the program to be successful, the collection points and overall routines must be convenient to employees.

7.  Equipment Considerations. Once you have determined the material that is to be recycled, the quantity and profile of the material, the collection system, as well as other information that you have obtained up to this point, it will help you confirm your container needs (for collecting the material in designated containers) and it will also help you confirm whether or not your Recycling Program should involve a baler.  The general industry criteria plus the criteria of the recycler / hauler will also help with these decisions. For example, if the bale weights need to be a certain size and/or a certain amount of pounds per cubic feet, then you must select a baler that can meet these requirements. There will be other considerations as well, such as who and how the recyclables will be loaded for transport, and how much storage space is available to store the recyclables in between pick-ups. Oftentimes, recyclers will bring their own forklift to load baled materials and other times the company will do the loading. These and many other factors are the types of detail that will require decisions, so it is good to consider these things in advance. Both the containers and the baler must be properly placed within the facility so as to make it convenient and feasible for employees.  As far as the containers, it is best to place them as close as possible to the areas where the material is disposed of and then have a central location near the baler where all of these smaller collection containers are emptied into a larger container (for easy access to loading them in the baler). The criteria for the right baler will depend on many factors, some of which are outlined in our overview called Baler Considerations for Recycling.

8.  Pre-Startup Meeting(s) - Have a Pre-Startup or Pre-Launch meeting with attendance from employees, vendors and upper management in order to go over all details step by step.  Depending on the size of the recycling program, it may be necessary to conduct more than one meeting. This is also a good time to confirm and/or revise the mission statement and other guidelines and make sure that they are properly conveyed to everyone. And of course, this is also the time to make any last minute changes before the program is commenced.

9.  Promote the Waste Recycling Program - Promote the recycling program both within and outside of your organization. This will help maximize the benefits received from the program. The more you promote it, the more the likelihood that additional recycling resources and vendors will become available to your company.

10.  Monitor your Waste Recycling Program - The last step (of our 10 steps for getting started) is to begin monitoring your Recycling Program as soon as it begins so that you can make necessary adjustments early on.  It is better to get issues taken care of before they develop into something bigger. Continuous feedback should be encouraged from all participants, including vendors.

By recycling, it not only benefits businesses by generating extra income and increasing profit by reducing trash disposal costs, but it also reduces consumer costs (since recycled materials are cheaper for manufacturers to purchase than new materials that have never been recycled).  So in addition to businesses benefiting from recycling, all of us as consumers benefit as well.

Contributor / Editor - Matt Kennedy - Refer questions to info@wastecare.com

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