Blog Post

Reducing waste at work offers many environmental, financial, and social benefits. Recognizing the opportunity for improvement is the first step in the process, but many may wonder, what comes next? RecyclingWorks in Massachusetts (RecyclingWorks) experts have compiled their top five tips to help businesses and institutions reduce waste, increase recycling, and implement new programs.

  1. Review the waste and recycling collection bins throughout your facility to gain a baseline understanding of current practices on-site.

    If your organization is not diverting food waste, start with our food waste estimate guide to estimate how much food material is going into the trash. As you look in the receptacles, ask yourself the following questions:

    1. Are there recyclables or other waste ban materials that should not be in the trash cans?
    2. On the day(s) your hauler picks up, how full are the containers?
    3. Are there materials that do not belong in the recycling (e.g. plastic bags) or food scraps (e.g. rubber gloves) bins?
  2. Understand the guidelines your recycling and organics hauler(s) currently have in place.

    This includes what materials they accept and how to prepare them. Confirm that your hauler(s) have the right contact information on file if they need to reach your business. Ask how they communicate about contaminated recycling or organics loads, as well as recyclables in your trash. Our Hauler Contracting Best Management Practices and the Find-A-Recycler database may be helpful resources during this process.

  3. Clearly label all bins and waste handling areas.

    Signs should be placed at eye level and if possible, color-coded to match the containers. You can use signs as a training tool when the program is launched and offer a quick reference for acceptable and unacceptable items. Below are a few examples of RecyclingWorks signage for recycling, cardboard, food scraps, and trash:

    1. Single Stream Recycling
    2. Cardboard Recycling
    3. Food Scraps
    4. Trash
  4. Provide employee education and training to support the program.

    Include any staff that are moving materials such as recycling and food waste. Teach staff to identify and safely remove contamination, like plastic bags, from the recycling. Tools such as litter grabbers can be handy when sorting, while a facility waste management plan can clearly demonstrate how material should be collected. Remember that recyclables should always be emptied from plastic bags and cardboard boxes should be flattened to save space. Conducting periodic bin checks will provide a broader understanding of program health. For businesses with a food waste diversion program, provide back-of-house staff with additional, specific training, including guidance on food waste prevention, source separation of food scraps, and food donation.

  5. Work with vendors to proactively minimize packaging and other waste.

    Consider including language in your vendor contracts to require that they reduce unnecessary waste, provide materials in reusable containers, and offer a take-back program for any materials that are difficult to reuse or recycle. Previous RecyclingWorks Forum presentations on procurement strategies for reducing waste from Raytheon and the Massachusetts Maritime Academy both offer useful information about sustainable purchasing.

RecyclingWorks assists businesses and institutions with waste prevention, reuse, recycling, and food recovery. We provide customized no-cost technical assistance through phone or email consultation, virtual appointments and in-person waste assessments. To speak to a recycling expert, call our hotline: (888) 254-5525 or email us at