Smarter Business: Greening Advisor



Recycling is one of the most common of all environmentally beneficial activities. It is relatively simple and painless and a great way to involve staff at all levels in your company’s environmental priorities. Recycling protects habitat and saves energy, water, and resources such as trees and metal ores. By recycling paper, cardboard, metals, plastics, and glass, you can help reduce the harmful impacts associated with the extraction of the raw materials used to make these resources, including greenhouse gas emissions, oil spills, deforestation, biodiversity loss, and water pollution.

Manufacturing products from recovered materials is less polluting than producing the same products from newly harvested or extracted virgin materials. Making paper from recycled fibers, for example, uses less energy and water and produces less air and water pollution than making paper from trees. Despite the obvious benefits and wide acceptance of recycling, it can sometimes be challenging to design an effective and efficient program.

Many local governments offer technical assistance to help businesses implement a recycling program or improve an existing one. Contact your local government’s recycling or solid waste department to learn more about the services it provides. Your current waste haulers may offer information as well. Also consider joining the EPA’s free WasteWise program, which provides members with several benefits, including a technical assistance team that can help you conduct a waste audit, reduce waste, and implement a recycling program.

For listings of recycling service providers near you, visit Earth 911’s Business Resources directory and the Environmental Yellow Pages.

Calculate the environmental benefits of recycling.

Shipping materials such as polystyrene foam (Styrofoam), bubble wrap, and loose polystyrene fill (packing peanuts) can account for a lot of company waste. Reusing these materials in future shipping can avoid the unnecessary production and purchase of these plastics and reduce your company’s waste. If your company is on the receiving end of these materials, ask your vendors to avoid using them in the future, and visit The Plastic Loose Fill Council for information on drop-off collection centers that will recover your loose polystyrene fill for reuse. Also, consider using reusable transport packaging to reduce your shipping waste and conserve resources. Visit Use Reusables for information on reusable packaging and its benefits for both your company and the environment. 

For a comprehensive discussion on waste and use reduction, see EPA’s Business Guide for Reducing Solid Waste. For those wishing to improve their existing recycling programs, the following guides are useful resources.

Recycling Can Save Money

Recycling and composting can save money through avoided disposal and hauling costs. Many recyclable items can also be sold on the market and be a source of revenue, although market conditions vary by material and by region. A waste audit will help your company identify these potential savings and revenue opportunities. Many companies have realized savings through their efforts to increase recycling.

The Brooklyn Brewery in Brooklyn, New York, implemented a variety of recycling and waste reduction measures, including recycling its cardboard and plastic wastes. These measures reduced the company’s annual waste generation by more than 50 percent, saving it more than $25,000 a year in hauling costs.

The San Diego Wild Animal Park generates more than 23,000 tons of waste annually but discards only 4 percent of this waste in landfills. The park implemented a comprehensive composting program for organic waste and has distributed recycling containers throughout its 1,800 acres, in addition to many other programs. In total, these efforts save more than $1 million in tipping and hauling fees each year.

For more examples of how smart waste practices can save your company money, see the following websites:

Additional Resources

Greening Advisor

The Business Plan

The Opportunities

Quick Tip

Reusing shipping materials such as Styrofoam, bubble wrap, and packing peanuts can reduce your company’s waste and avoid the unnecessary production and purchase of these plastics.

Let us know.

Recycling is relatively simple and painless, and a great way to involve staff at all levels in your company’s environmental priorities.

Get Updates and Alerts

See the latest issue >

NRDC Gets Top Ratings from the Charity Watchdogs

Charity Navigator awards NRDC its 4-star top rating.
Worth magazine named NRDC one of America's 100 best charities.
NRDC meets the highest standards of the Wise Giving Alliance of the Better Business Bureau.

Donate now >

Share | |