Recycle right at work and home

Today, the need to recycle right is greater than ever. The supply of recyclable materials is growing even as demand for reclaimed materials shrinks. As much as 30% of recycling was once sent to China.[1] That has been reduced to 3 to 5 percent of its former volume.

Simple, inexpensive strategies can reduce hauling costs, make better use of materials, and to limit landfill accumulation.

Provide better bins

Successful recycling (with minimal contamination) begins with two or more bins, placed strategically. In many office environments, two is the ideal number. For consistent long-term results, recycling should be easy and convenient, with no unnecessary complications.

That means one bin for recycling and a second bin for trash.

Office recycling containers can run from low cost[2] to high three-digits[3] but regardless, should be blue. Blue is the recognized color for bins you see everywhere so people know that is where the plastic bottles, soda cans, cardboard, and clean scrap paper can go.

A second bin, which ideally is similar in appearance, should be a black or gray trash bin. Not sure if an item is recyclable? Put it into the trash!

Show what to recycle

When recycling becomes contaminated with trash an entire load may be destined for a landfill. The easiest way to avoid this is clear, simple signage.

To prepare a recyclables sign, take a moment to consider what items might be best placed in that blue bin. Choose the top five or so. If the bins will be placed in a break room, plastic bottles are a likely candidate. In a warehouse or stock room, cardboard will be among the five. Consider what your organization purchases most often. Some of that may and should be, “top five” items.

The header of a recyclables sign should be the same color as the bin, especially if you have strayed from blue. Below that header, put photos and possibly a one-word description of the top recyclable items. A quick online search will yield the photos.

The “trash” sign should match the bin color. Graphics are not required unless you want to emphasize that marterials are going to the landfill.

Know what to trash

Sometimes, materials which could otherwise be recycled become contaminated. That makes them trash.

A plastic plate, even when imprinted with a triangle logo, should not be recycled with food waste on it. Cardboard boxes with pizza grease or other contaminants belong in the garbage.

These are the contaminants that cause the most problems at Materials Recycling Facilities (MRF)[4]

  • Garbage

    If not composted, food waste is garbage. If it remains on the surface of a glass jar or yogurt cup, that item is nonrecyclable as well.

  • Plastic Wrap/Bags

    Plastic bags don’t belong in your office or home recycling. Don’t place recyclables in a bag or it becomes trash. Soft plastics (bags, wrap) accumulate around the gears of the sorting machine. This can shut down the MRF for hours at a time and cost the MRF valuable revenue. Return plastic bags to retailers such as grocery stores, Wal-Mart, and Target.

  • Hazardous Items

    If it is sharp and can cut someone or is pressurized can explode under compression, please do not recycle it. Chemicals and petroleum products require disposal at other specialized facilities, not a general recycling plant.

  • Tangling Items

    Clothing, water hoses, cords, and other stringy items can tangle in the industrial sorting and processing equipment. MRF employees can be injured and equipment can be damaged when tangling items are tossed into recycling.

Does your organization need more information about which materials are contaminants? Make sure you check with your local recycler to find out what materials are acceptable in recycling.

If questions remain, please feel free to contact us at ecoPreserve. We can also recommend an online resource that was developed by The Recycling Partnership. [5]

Make recyclables ready

Plastic bottlesPlastic, glass, and metal containers should be rinsed before recycling.

Are plastic bottles a “top five” recyclable? Consider using a photo of a crushed bottle on your recycling signs.

With just a twist, caps can be removed before the bottle is crushed, then replaced before tossing it into the blue bin. That keeps loose bottle caps from falling through sorting equipment. Also, the crushed bottles take less space and will not make a projectile of the cap during processing.

Recycling should not be bagged. The MRF will discard bagged items as trash.

Save with material-specific programs

Depending on what is purchased at your business, your organization may find savings or other cost benefits from reusing or recycling specific types of items.

Many grocery and retail stores install cardboard bailers and then recycle by the pallet. Your shipping/receiving room may not require that capital equipment but might benefit from setting flattened boxes aside for occasional recycling.

Do you purchase printer and copy paper by the carton? Many offices place those empty cartons strategically near shared printers and copiers and have a paper recycling program.

Other items to consider, depending on what is purchased in volume:

  • Batteries, which may be recycled at Batteries R Us or Home Depot
  • Ink and toner cartridges
  • Light bulbs
  • Pens
  • Staff uniforms, towels, and other textiles, especially in the hospitality industry. The American Textile Recycling Service (ATRS) [6] provides bins and accepts tax-deductible charitable donations in many southern cities.

Leaders: Support and celebrate

Once an organization has decided what to recycle, where to place the bins, and how to label them, the recycling program requires minimal maintenance. Support and feedback will encourage participation, but training is seldom required. Occasional mentions in quarterly meetings can remind a team that recycling remains a priority.

Sometimes, a quick check of program progress can measurably reduce waste management costs. At ecoPreserve, we would be pleased to share waste audit information with you as well.

[2] 10-gallon blue recycling bin offered for $15
[3] A set of three bins is priced at $699, discounted from $944
[5] Acceptable Materials Worksheet from The Recycling Partnership
[6] American Textile Recycling Service (ATRS)

Jessica Wright

Jessica Wright

Project Manager at ecoPreserve
LEED Green Associate, Florida Water AP - - A problem-solving, innovative manager, Jessica has led projects in varied scenarios including healthcare, food services, higher education, and local government. Her expertise in Zero Waste, sustainable purchasing, and waste minimization and diversion have earned her the lead of ecoPreserve’s Resource Lifecycle services. A graduate of the University of Central Florida, she also holds a degree in Sustainability from the University of Phoenix.
Jessica Wright


We empower organizations to reduce environmental impact, improve efficiency, and improve quality of life.
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Facility Condition Report

The report is prepared in accordance with the recommendations of ASTM E2018-15, Standard Guide for Property Condition Assessments. This is a partial list of contents:

    • General condition of the building, grounds, and appurtenances
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AWARE of CDC and NIH guidelines

The Baseline Property Condition Assessments described in ASTM E2018-15 do not specify consideration of infectious disease transmission concerns. In a pandemic and post-pandemic environment, that inspection and documentation is essential.

Buildings open to the public must comply with local regulations. For best results and greatest public acceptance, any planning for building repairs and maintenance should not overlook current CDC and NIH guidelines.

Optionally, ecoPreserve's can assist with a comprehensive GBAC STAR™ Accreditation which extends beyond the building to include the goals, actions, equipment, and supplies needed to implement best practices for outbreak prevention, response, and recovery.

An OPTIMIZED Assessment

Certified Sustainability Consultants on a facility assessment team can discover ways to lower energy costs. Their understanding of HVAC equipment suitability and condition along with the specifics of LED lighting retrofits can provide offsets for needed investments in upgrades and replacements.

Knowledge of water systems can bring further savings while averting water waste. It can all be part of an assessment which might otherwise overlook water fixtures and irrigation schedules.

How should a facility be ASSESSED?

A thorough facility assessment finds the issues - on the surface or below - which have a potential negative impact on the building. That brings the facility to meet building codes. Beyond that, the assessment proactively addresses the deficiencies not covered by code.

The occupants of a building benefit as the assessment reveals conditions having a potential impact on their health or safety. The assessment must not overlook those conditions, nor fail to consider the frequency and duration of occupant visits.