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This is a common question our experts get asked when clients are looking to improve their recycling solutions. As consumers most of us are lazy. We thrive off convenience and rewards. We like to feel good about what we are doing and get recognition. Employee involvement is everything, because it’s that split-second decision that determines the destination of waste, whether it is going to go into the correct recycling stream or thrown into the general waste bin.

Generally, when people come to work each day, they want to do the right thing. They want to do a good job and contribute to the overall forward movement of the company.

To engage staff and customers you should start talking about it. People naturally follow others and create habits. If you are always talking about your recycling solutions in meetings, advertising and general conversation, staff and customers won’t want to be the person who isn’t doing the right thing.

The main question should be ‘do my staff know why recycling is important and why we are implementing a new recycling scheme?’ If they know the answer to that question, then that’s your first hurdle. Showing your staff that their efforts are affecting change in the bigger, wider picture, simply and quickly creates more engagement with your recycling bins.


Recycling Captain

Make a member of your staff a recycle captain, give them tasks and goals to hit. This can be motivating for them and will give them recognition. Give your staff a reward if they decrease your plastic usage by X amount. They can encourage others and lead by example to help change their mindset. Large organisations have implemented a ‘green pledge’ to commit to planting 50,000 trees or more a year and strictly following the waste hierarchy. By having these plans in place, it allows for accountability which will inevitably get results done.


What are the qualities of a recycle captain?

The role is essentially change management, which is probably something you’ve had to deal with before.  Some essential qualities for this are:

Recycling Scheme

  • Unwavering energy and enthusiasm for the campaign
  • Excellent interpersonal skills: a good listener, empathetic, with clear communication skills and the ability to build rapport
  • Creativity in execution – ability to be flexible in dealing with resistors to the campaign
  • Excellent facilitation skills – ability to coach those who are unsure of themselves
  • Passionate about recycling and willing.
  • They must be willing to throw themselves into the campaign and be committed to trying to make a change.
  • Likeable – if they have a reputation of not being friendly amongst staff or not being an overall people person, staff won’t listen to them and will not buy into the campaign.

What are the day-to-day duties of your recycle captain?

The role will vary on your scheme, whether is it new or old. But when the scheme is in place I would look at:

Closely monitoring recycling levels

  • Keeping track as much as possible of individual performance
  • Encouraging resistors and those who are unsure of themselves
  • Congratulating those who are doing well or improving
  • Publicising achievements of individuals and overall performance of the company
  • Noting efforts to reduce waste by staff members and sharing these ideas

Communication with management

  • Becoming a link between staff and leaders of the campaign helping them address any issues
  • Making sure management are aware of how the campaign is going and whether anything needs changing or if it Is working
  • Celebration of results so management can celebrate success stories in meetings and in company communication channels, this will hopefully trigger some ideas in other departments and get them to follow
  • Working with the leaders directly will allow brainstorming sessions to have better ideas to push for better results to improve their sustainability.

Motivating staff

  • Constantly having a positive force in the office for the scheme
  • Reducing negativity about the campaigns in conversation amongst staff
  • Constant reminders amongst staff on the scheme and always telling them the Why? Why are we doing this
  • Creating a culture of sustainable behaviour amongst all staff
  • Educating them constantly, always reminding staff to do the right thing
  • Educating them to Re-use items around the office

Re-using a product

Having a reuse station, sounds simple right? Well, it is, have an area where staff can put items they no longer need. This will reduce costs and will help the environment. If you think outside the four walls of your business and start thinking about “how it’s made” and “where do my recycled items go?” you start to understand that simply buying a new product has a much bigger impact on the environment than you initially think.

By having a mindset of never refuse re-use you will inevitably be on our way to improving your impact on the environment.


But why should I reuse as a business?

  • Reduces waste streams
  • Conserves resources
  • Saves or delays purchasing and disposal costs
  • Less pollution than recycling or making new products from new materials
  • Makes items available to those who can’t afford to buy new


Make it easy

As a rule, we say you need between 10 to 15 steps between each employee and the recycling station. If it becomes 30 steps or more people will get bored and end up putting the rubbish in general waste, when it is perfectly good recyclable material. Think of placing a recycling station in other high-footfall areas other than the office, like the corridor, or the breakout canteen area also.

If you want this noticed you should have a dedicated area for recycling, have colourful eye-catching wall graphics. It shows staff and customers you are serious about recycling and have a vision.

Also, clear signage, it sounds simple to have a sign to that says, ‘recycle here’. But knowing what to recycle and what not to recycling can be confusing, and if you get it wrong then your recycling scheme isn’t making an impact. You can design your signs to anything you want to catch their eye and make it informative; here are some examples of different types of signage we can do.4W Aspire

Wall graphics are another great way to engage staff, these don’t have to be placed by the recycling station. A graphic can be put anywhere in the office, it could show your reasons behind this scheme and
your vision. They can clearly explain the benefits of recycling and using the correct waste stream. They can be as big or small and any colour you want.


Share the results

Communicating the results regularly to your team will instantly help you to encourage recycling at work… By including everyone on the journey you will automatically get more buy in. Show them how recycling correctly does make a real difference to the environment (and your company’s sustainability goals). This could be done in a weekly bulletin email to your team, or in your regular group huddles or meetings. Continually monitor and report on the progress of your office recycling program. You could do this by carrying out regular waste audits to identify any opportunities to divert more waste from landfill, by recycling more. Displaying your results and goals near your recycling bins is a fantastic way to encourage people to do their best.

A bit of good-natured competition can also motivate employees to participate, especially when there’s something at stake. Some companies have created teams by department or building section, and whichever group wins the recycling challenge that month wins something. Prizes don’t need to be extravagant, and you could even skip the prize in favour of something meaningful to your workers, to inspire them to continue their great office recycling efforts. When targets are set, and results are measured a sense of competition is likely to kick in.

‘Recycling at work’ has a great competition idea, called ‘get caught green handed’. When someone gets noticed recycling, you reward them. Consider taking photos for a “Recycling Heroes” bulletin board, or entering each recycler to win a larger, eco-friendly prize (e.g., reusable mug or water bottle, gift card to a local farmer’s market, or recycled-content t-shirt).

By following these steps, you will inevitably show your future customers you care about the environment and want to reduce your carbon footprint. These are some examples of the recycling stations we completed for NatWest, Red bull, and M&S and this is what they said:

Marks & Spencer BRS

“I was delighted when the recycling stations were delivered – it made my day! The delivery guys were helpful, happy, and efficient.

The recycling stations are high quality and look great in our staff restaurant. It has encouraged better waste segregation.

My cleaning team are very happy with the recycling stations. Very easy to clean and quick to empty. We are still using the same liner refills after weeks of constant bin emptying! We have reduced the time spent emptying bins by at least two times…! Our cleaning team now have more time for other tasks.

I would recommend the recycling stations and Longopac liners to other sites.”


Hopefully this will give you some ideas on how to encourage recycling at work… it may take some effort to get started, but I can assure you these efforts will pay off, as we have seen in hundreds of our clients. If you want to get started today and have any questions regarding this speak to one of our experts today on 0330 700 6000.


Click here to see our inspiration gallery to see how we have helped other clients increase their recycling rates

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