Recycling & Your Business


Do you think of recycling as a waste of time? Some entrepreneurs do feel that way. Hopefully, this article will provide some facts and a perspective that will alter that line of thinking.

Recycling isn’t just saving a few items from destruction-by-dumpster. It is a series of activities that includes: collecting recyclable materials that would otherwise be considered waste, sorting and processing recyclables into raw materials such as fibers, and manufacturing raw materials into new products.

Here are some facts and figures that might help you with your decision:

• In 1999, recycling and composting activities prevented about 64 million tons of material from ending up in landfills and incinerators. Today, this country recycles 28 percent of its waste, a rate that has almost doubled during the past 15 years.

• While recycling has grown in general, recycling of specific materials has grown even more drastically: 42 percent of all paper, 40 percent of all plastic soft drink bottles, 55 percent of all aluminum beer and soft drink cans, 57 percent of all steel packaging, and 52 percent of all major appliances are now recycled.

• Twenty years ago, only one curbside recycling program existed in the United States, which collected several materials at the curb. By 1998, 9,000 curbside programs and 12,000 recyclable drop-off centers had sprouted up across the nation. As of 1999, 480 materials recovery facilities had been established to process the collected materials.

This list of waste reduction ideas is intended to help you think of new ways to prevent waste and to save money. Brainstorming with others in your company is bound to result in more ideas! Remember–it’s about reducing unnecessary waste and using valuable resources wisely by creating business efficiencies that can save your company money. Why should anyone be against that?

Your business recycling program should involve three steps: 1.) promote reduction, 2.) reuse, 3.) recycle.

1. Reduce

• Eliminate unnecessary reports and reduce report size.

• Post information to an internal or external web site whenever possible.

• Eliminate unnecessary forms and redesign to use less paper.

• Don’t use cover sheets on faxes.

• Make fewer copies. Share copies and don’t make more copies than you need.

• Print or copy on both sides.

• Proof documents on screen and preview before printing.

• Set up computers to automatically print

• Use light weight paper.

• Remove duplicate names and out-of-date entries from mailing lists.

• Take steps to reduce unsolicited mail.

• Design mailers which avoid the use of envelopes (fold and staple the paper).

• Use electronic mail and voice mail.

• Post announcements on bulletin boards or circulate copies.

• Circulate memos, documents, reports, and publications.

• Allow internal documents to be circulated with legible minor hand corrections rather than retyping drafts.

2. Reuse

• Collect paper that has been used on one side and reuse as draft paper in fax machines, for scratch pads and copies (in copiers with multiple trays, one tray can be stocked with draft paper).

• Buy only copiers and printers that will make two-sided copies reliably.

• Reuse envelopes by placing a label over the old address.

• Use reusable envelopes for interoffice mail.

• Use outdated letterhead for in-house memos.

• Reuse file folders.

• Shred newspapers and reuse for packaging.

• Investigate whether local libraries, schools, hospitals, nursing homes, etc. could use your old trade journals or magazines.

3. Recycle

• Estimate how much waste paper your office produces and arrange to have it picked up by your waste hauler or a recycler.

• If your office is small, consider combining your recyclables with other small offices nearby.

• Provide desktop recycling containers
for employees.

• Provide clearly labeled recycling bins near copiers, shipping and receiving areas, and in employee eating areas to collect white paper, mixed paper, newspaper, magazines, cardboard as well as non-paper products (glass, aluminum, plastic, etc).

• Don’t buy paper that becomes a contaminant when recycled, e.g. thermal fax paper, glossy/plastic coatings, plastic windows, bright colors including goldenrod, laser printer inks, adhesive products.

• Print directly on envelopes rather than using labels.

Buy Recycled-Content Products

Products made from recycled material is everywhere today. In most cases, you can tell little or no difference between such products and those made of “virgin” material. Yet using these things has a profound impact on our natural resources. With increased purchasing power, today’s customer can demand recycled products into the market place. One example would be100 percent post-consumer recycled office paper, a product that was terribly expensive and tough to find just a few years ago. Perseverance by several large organizations has produced recycled paper products that are high in quality and low in price. The most effective way to make a difference is with the use of consumer demand. Ask the office supply company you order from for a list of their recycled product options.

Waste reduction simply makes good business sense. It can save your business money through reduced purchasing and waste disposal costs. The EPA’s program, WasteWise, provides free technical assistance to help you develop, implement, and measure your waste reduction activities. Good luck!

COCC’s, Business Development Center provides workshops and free confidential business advising. Call Beth Wickham at 541/383-7290 for more information or for a meeting with a business advisor.


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