In 2011, a record-high 66.8 percent of paper was recovered and recycled in the U.S., which means people are recycling quite a bit in their daily lives. There’s always room for improvement, however, and though 87 percent of Americans have access to curbside or drop-off recycling options for paper, it’s important to ensure you’re recycling whenever you can. To help you promote recycling in your day-to-day life, we’ve put together a list of three places you should always recycle. We’ve also compiled some steps you can take to start recycling – or even start a recycling program – in those places in case there isn’t a recycling system already in place. With a little time and effort, you can help make the paper recycling rate even higher.
1. At Work
Why It Matters
If you work in an office, or in many other workplaces for that matter, you probably use a fair amount of paper. Even though technology can help reduce the amount of paper we use, paper still plays a prominent role in work life. Plus, the average American uses almost six 40-foot tall trees worth of paper each year. On the upside, though, purchases of printing and writing paper declined by 5 percent in 2011, according to paperrecycles.org, a website maintained by the American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA), and recycling of printing and writing paper only declined by 1.2 percent. This means that while there may be less paper in use, we are recycling a larger chunk of that paper.
Printing and writing paper are likely the most common types of paper in many workplaces, but plenty of other paper types including envelopes, stationary, magazines and paper-based packaging are found at work as well. Since so many types of paper surround people at work, employees need to know which types can be recycled and how to do so.
Steps to Take
Your employer or the building you work in may already have recycling procedures in place, so first check to familiarize yourself with the options available to you. If a recycling program for paper doesn’t exist, you may need to look into starting one. The American Forest & Paper Association offers some useful guides to help you implement paper recycling programs. For a detailed set of instructions about getting started with recycling at work, take a look at their Workplace Recycling Guide. Here are some of the basic steps to keep in mind while you plan:
- Identify Recyclables – You may need to conduct an audit of your workplace’s waste stream to find out what kinds of paper are being thrown away, how much there is and where most of this paper is generated.
- Find a Market for Your Paper – You will need to find a vendor to collect and transport your paper for processing. Check with your building manager or trash hauler, as they may be able to assist you.
- Talk with Management – Those in charge will want to know about cost and potential benefits, and having management on board will be important to the success of a program.
- Organize Collection Procedures – You will need to coordinate with custodial staff about who will collect recyclable paper and where bins will be located. Also make sure to select containers that are easy to recognize and put them in both common spaces and at individual desks.
- Get Employees Involved – Communication is key to a good paper recycling program, so make sure everyone knows what’s going on.
- Provide Periodic Updates – Telling everyone how the program is doing and how it could be improved will help keep co-workers motivated.
Early in the process, you’ll want to find out which types of office paper can be recycled and whether they need to be separated in any way. Later on, make sure employees understand any specific steps they may need to take before recycling paper. Putting up signs or fliers in communal areas may be helpful. AF&PA holds annual Paper Recycling Awards, so if your workplace implements a noteworthy recycling program, you could consider entering their contest.