Waste Not, Want Not

April 22, 2024

Recycling and composting play an important role in corporate sustainability efforts, with a roadmap for implementation and success.

In today's rapidly evolving corporate environment, sustainability initiatives such as recycling and composting have transformed from optional to essential practices. These processes are not only about reducing waste but also about building a culture of responsibility and innovation within the workplace. This article explores the significant benefits and practical steps necessary for companies to implement and succeed in these green endeavors.

Recycling and composting provide numerous advantages beyond the obvious environmental benefits for organizations. Firstly, they significantly reduce the volume of waste sent to landfills, thus minimizing environmental impact and associated disposal costs. Additionally, they can lead to cost savings from reduced waste management expenses. The success of these programs depends heavily on the participation and commitment of employees. Organizational culture plays a critical role; when a company embeds sustainability into its core values, it encourages employees to contribute actively. Training sessions, clear communication and incentives are vital in fostering this culture, ensuring that everyone understands the benefits and procedures of recycling and composting.

Here in our Omaha office, we've embraced a comprehensive approach to composting and recycling. Partnering with Hillside Solutions, we set up well-labeled bins for each waste category: composting, aluminum and plastic, energy bag and landfill. Knowing that this process is an adjustment, we make a point to offer regular educational programs, ensuring that both new and existing employees understand the importance of their participation. By setting up well-labeled bins and providing continuous education through meetings and presentations, we've helped further our culture of sustainability. We're even able to take the nutrient-dense soil Hillside creates from our composting materials and donate it back to local gardens, landscapes and farms.

Inspired by our efforts and, with guidance from RDG, we've even helped our client, FNBO (First National Bank of Omaha), implement similar practices as part of their recent renovation project. We started with educational workshops and then helped connect them with the right partners so they could establish a program tailored to their specific operational needs.

FNBO’s adoption of its own recycling and composting program demonstrates the scalability and adaptability of these initiatives. Photography by AJ Brown Imaging.

How to Get Started

Organizations looking to get started with their own recycling and composting programs can follow a few straightforward steps. Challenges such as costs, compliance with local regulations and initial employee resistance are common but can be overcome with careful planning and engagement strategies.

  • Step 1: Assess Your Waste. Before launching a program, it's crucial to understand the types of waste your company produces. Conduct a waste audit by collecting data for at least a week to identify how much waste is being disposed of and how much could be diverted through recycling and composting. This initial assessment will help tailor the program to your company's specific needs.

  • Step 2: Set Clear Goals. What do you hope to achieve through your composting and recycling program? Setting clear, achievable goals can guide the development and implementation of your program. Whether it's reducing waste to landfills by 50% within the first year or achieving Zero Waste certification, having defined targets will measure success and motivate participation.

  • Step 3: Engage Stakeholders. Involvement from all levels of the organization is crucial. Engage stakeholders from the top down through presentations that outline the benefits and goals of the program. Including team members in planning and decision-making can foster a sense of ownership and responsibility for the program's success.

  • Step 4: Choose the Right Bins and Signage. Proper bin selection and strategic placement are key. Choose bins that are compatible with the type of waste your company produces and the hauler's requirements. Clearly labeled bins with color-coded systems and instructional signage reduce contamination and increase the likelihood of compliance.

  • Step 5: Educate Your Team. Continuous education and communication are vital for the program's longevity. Organize training sessions to educate employees about what can be composted or recycled and the importance of reducing contamination. Regular updates on the program's progress and successes can also maintain engagement and enthusiasm.

  • Step 6: Monitor and Adapt. Regular monitoring of the program's performance allows for adjustments and improvements. Periodically analyze the volume and contamination rates of collected waste. Soliciting feedback from employees can also provide insights into challenges and potential improvements.

  • Step 7: Celebrate and Expand. Recognizing and celebrating milestones in your composting and recycling efforts can boost morale and program participation. Share success stories and statistics with the entire company to highlight the positive impact of their efforts. Once established, consider expanding the program to include other forms of waste reduction like electronic waste recycling or water conservation.

Implementing recycling and composting programs within an organization goes beyond just being environmentally responsible — it's about setting precedents in the corporate world. The journey toward sustainability is long and ongoing, but by integrating recycling and composting into their operations, organizations can take decisive steps toward a more sustainable future. As businesses continue to navigate this path, the lessons learned and the benefits gained will undoubtedly shape a new standard for operational excellence and environmental responsibility.

Written by Bridget Flaherty, Experiential Graphic Designer