Here are 10 simple steps to reduce and hopefully one day eliminate waste in your office:

  1. Find Your Champions – many people love recycling, in fact they are passionate about it, it drives them nuts to see things being wasted or put in the wrong bin. These are your people. Find them. Organise a recycling party, free pizza or morning tea. They will educate their colleagues and monitor your recycling system for free. Assign an ‘eco-rep’ – they will be the eyes and ears of your waste minimisation programme. 
  2. Remove Under Desk Bins – office workers do not produce 10 litres of rubbish a day so let’s not encourage them! Have your cleaning team or your eco-reps remove all under desk bins in one hit. We’ve found its best to take them out quick – just like you’re ripping off a plaster. Recycling stations must go in at the same time though and make sure you leave some clear instructions for what to do with rubbish now.
  3. Add mini desk-top bins and a paper recycling tray – if the thought of having no bins seems like a step too far pop in some mini desktop rubbish bins and an A4 size paper reuse-recycling tray. Bendon have lovely pink ones called paper pigs. The trick to having a rubbish bin on your desk is to make it small so having too much waste becomes a little bit of an inconvenience. This bin is desktop furniture though so make it cute or it won’t last a day. You will hit a couple of people that hate this new system. So be fair – people with allergies, staff who unwrap large volumes of mail and those at reception might need something else.
  4. Recycling Stations – ideally you will skip step 3, the next step is to install great recycling stations. You’ll need one in every kitchen, kitchenette, tea station and copy room and if you have big office floor spaces in the middle or corners of each floor. Make sure they are on the route to the kitchen or toilet and not so far away that staff feel inconvenienced.
  5. Which Wastes – any areas where staff eat should have four bins: a landfill, compost, mixed recycling (glass, cans, plastics 1-7) and paper bin.  Check with your waste contractor and confirm what is accepted in each bin before you add signage and labels.
  6. Free Labels – the Waste Minimisation Association of New Zealand (WasteMINZ) have great waste and recycling labels that are free to download.Use these, make your own or talk to a rubbish bin supplier about providing these. Remember there are splashes around bins so laminate your signs or buy good quality stickers so you can keep these clean. When it comes to signage keep it simple and colour code labels on all your bins the same way. Use the WasteMINZ labels but also think about adding images of common waste items for quick recognition.
  7. Bins – Build your recycling station bins into cabinetry if you are creating new spaces or go for good looking freestanding bins for existing spaces. Put signage on bins and above if possible. Big bins need emptied less often but can get smelly if they are not emptied frequently enough. People don’t like to touch rubbish bins so use bins with opening slots and make sure they are kept impeccably clean. Remember your cleaners will be spending less time emptying under desk bins now so use this time to keep the stations sparkling.
  8. Landfill Bin Closest – there is a bit of a science to bin placement. To reduce contamination in your recycling put the landfill bin closest. Those who can’t be bothered will hit this bin first and not mess up your recycling collection. Many waste contractors will reject your recycling if there is too much rubbish in it. So use the laziness factor to your advantage.
  9. Love Your Cleaners – get to know your cleaners and cleaning contract manager. These guys are your waste management eyes and ears too. More to the point you need to make sure that they know which skips or bins to empty your recycling station bins into. Cleaners can even be convinced to manage your worm farm if you to choose to process your compost on site. Keep an eye on staff changes though and make sure new staff know what to do. Provide information for your contractor to include in their staff training.
  10. Waste Free Lunches – now you’re set up focus on the fun stuff, set up your cupboards with reusable coffee cups, think about a fruit bowl for staff to share fruit from home, or even a seasonal fruit service. Get your eco-reps to host a party making branded wax sandwich wraps for themselves and family members to get the plastic lunch wrap out of your bins. Don’t forget the coffee run either – offer branded reusable coffee cups and think about a staff bike with coffee cup holders if the best café is a long walk away.