Tips for Starting a Recycling Program at Your Business

RecyclingWorks in Massachusetts is here to walk you through the basic steps of starting a new recycling or composting program or improving on an existing program. We provide general guidance on this site but if you have specific questions, or would like to request RecyclingWorks Technical Assistance, we encourage you to call our hotline at (888) 254-5525 or send us an email at

Step 1: Learn About Your Current Program

Your business probably already has a system in place to deal with waste and recycling. Take some time to learn about the current programs and create a Green Team task force to help you move forward – that task force could be one person or a group of people depending on the size of your organization.  Most importantly a Green Team should have the support of management. Gather all the information you can from your current hauler; service agreement, waste bills, tonnage reports and any failed load notices.

Begin by asking these questions:

  • How much and what type of waste does your business generate?
  • Who is your current waste hauler? What trash and recycling services do they provide?
  • What is the frequency of collection, number and type of collection containers, materials collected, and service costs?
  • What is the performance of the current program? Are recyclables still being disposed?
  • Who from your organization will be involved in implementing any changes? Management?

Step 2: Identify How You Want to Change the Program

Once you are familiar with the current program and your service needs, determine how you can improve the program. Some common changes include expanding a program to include new materials, changing collection containers, or working internally to increase participation and compliance. Key questions to ask include:

  • Are recycling containers adequate and clearly labeled?
  • Do staff members understand the recycling program and its benefits?
  • Can recycling be made easier to increase participation?
  • Can trash services and costs be reduced through more recycling or reduced waste generation?
  • Can you add materials to your recycling program?
  • Can you save money by reducing waste up front by buying less or switching from disposable to reusable products?

Please refer to the RecyclingWorks Single Stream Recycling webpage for more information on implementing an effective single stream recycling program in your organization.

Step 3: Contact Your Hauler

If you already have a hauler, call your account representative to discuss ways to modify existing services.  If your hauler is not able to help you, you should contact other haulers.  Before you make any changes, find out if you have an existing contract and when the contract is scheduled to expire.

When you call:

  • Know the materials you want to recycle and estimate the volume if you can.
  • Ask how your items need to be prepared for pick up.
  • Make sure the hauler can assure you that the materials will be properly handled once collected.
  • Find out if the hauler offers onsite waste audits, indoor collection containers, signage, educational materials or trainings to help improve your program.
  • Ask how your hauler can help you save money through reduced disposal costs.

For a detailed tip sheet about contracting for trash, recycling, and food waste hauling services, see Hauler Contracting Guidance. Learn more about containers serviced by your hauler and other equipment options on the Equipment for Collecting Trash, Recycling, and Food Waste webpage.

Use the RecyclingWorks Find-a-Recycler tool to search our database and connect with recycling and composting service providers in your area.

Step 4: Implement the Program

For larger organizations, a Green Team with a diverse cross section of departmental members can help the program implementation succeed. Communication, signage, and proper employee training are crucial to success. Involve the people who will be handling the material as much as possible in the planning stages. If a third party service is involved, bring them into the process. RecyclingWorks can also help through our hotline or customized no-cost technical assistance.

We’re Here to Help

Setting up or improving your recycling or composting program can be tricky. We have recycling experts on hand to answer your questions so is you need help along the way, call our hotline at (888) 254-5525 or send us an email at RecyclingWorks representatives are standing by to help you navigate the process.