Waste Reduction at Work

According to CalRecycle, the commercial sector accounts for approximately 68% of the waste disposed in California. The costs of this waste affect us all.

Every business is different. For office buildings, paper and inkjet cartridges pile up in the waste bins. For restaurants, food scraps are a huge concern. Construction or industrial firms are often very aware of what’s in their waste streams, but there are always new methods for reduction and increased efficiency.

Whether you’re the owner or an employee, in an office or out in the field, you can help your firm reduce waste, boost efficiency and save room for tomorrow in OC’s landfills.

Why care?

  • Cost-efficiency Flat disposal programs are priced higher than recycling programs.
  • Marketing Customers increasingly want to do business with “green” companies.
  • Morale Empower employees to take part in a positive change in your business.
  • It’s the law Many cities have adopted ordinances to reduce business waste and gain assistance in meeting their mandates.  Check your local city for local laws that may affect you.

Getting started

A successful waste reduction program requires a plan and participation from everyone at work in your firm. If you own or manage your business, the process is easy to implement. If you’re an employee, talk to your manager. The steps to realizing new efficiencies and saving room in OC’s landfills are surprisingly simple.

Assess your current waste

What waste does your business generate? Office paper, food scraps, construction and demolition, hazardous waste, etc.

Create goals for your company. Start with a 10% reduction goal for the 2010 year. Take our 10% in 2010 Challenge!

Research the information

If you are an employee, obtain approval from management.

Designate an employee or manager to set up the program, monitor the success of the program and troubleshoot obstacles.

Determine who will handle the waste hauling. Recycling bins in the office do not mean that recycling is actually happening at the curb. You’ll need to work with your waste hauler to ensure this. You may also need to change your custodial service contract.

Reduce and Reuse

Recycling bins are showing up in workplaces across California, but recycling is only part of an overall waste-reduction program. Following are some tips that will get your business started in reducing what it disposes of as waste.


  • Use “life cycle costs” rather than “low bid” approaches when purchasing.
  • Purchase equipment that offers a lengthy warranty.
  • Substitute organic and non-toxic materials for toxic materials such as vegetable-based inks, water-based glue, markers and paints.
  • Order merchandise with minimal packaging or buy in bulk.
  • Order supplies by voice mail or electronic mail.
  • Purchase paper with the highest level of recycled content (at least 50%).
  • Encourage employees to stay in green hotels and use environmentally friendly transportation.


  • Buy bulk items instead of individually wrapped items.
  • Use reusable boxes and mailbags for shipping to branch offices, stores, and warehouses.
  • Reuse packing materials such as bubble wrap and cardboard boxes or set up a system for returning to distributors for reuse.
  • Return, reuse and repair wooden pallets and spools.


  • Print double-sided whenever possible.
  • E-mail documents, avoid printing.
  • Do not print blank pages.
  • Discontinue the fax; scan in and e-mail instead.
  • Reuse envelopes and use two-way envelopes.
  • Make scratch pads from used paper.
  • Use central files for hard copies.
  • Use smaller font and narrow margins.
  • Proof documents on screen before printing.
  • Print drafts on paper already printed on one side.
  • Use same draft of report for corrections by several people.
  • Accept final in-house documents with hand corrections.
  • Seek methods to reduce production errors.
  • Donate old magazines or journals to hospitals, clinics, or libraries.
  • Keep mailing lists current/one copy per address.
  • Call or mail postcards directly to senders asking that your name be removed from mailing lists.


  • Rent instead of buying equipment that is used only occasionally.
  • Use remanufactured office equipment.
  • Invest in equipment that facilitates waste prevention, such as:
    high quality, durable, repairable equipment; copiers and printers that make two-sided copies; modem cards; folder/sealers.
  • Institute maintenance practices that prolong the life of copiers, computers, and other equipment.
  • Use refilled or rebuilt fax (if you can’t get rid of your fax machine) and printer cartridges.
  • Sell or give old furniture and equipment to employees, local schools or donate it to a local charity.
  • Use retreaded tires on company vehicles. Rotate tires on a regular basis to prolong tire life. Keep tires properly inflated.
  • Install reusable heating, ventilation and air conditioning filters.
  • Replace incandescent with fluorescent lights.


  • Use a mulching mower or retrofit your mower to leave grass clippings on the lawn, known as grasscycling.
  • Compost grass clippings and leaves.
  • Use compost as a topsoil amendment or request that your landscaper use it.
  • Choose a landscape design that needs low maintenance and generates little waste (e.g., perennials, slow growing shrubs).
  • Buy a chipper and turn tree and shrub clippings into mulch.

Food and Personal Services:

  • Use durable towels, tablecloths, napkins, dishes, flatware, cups and glasses.
  • Pack a waste free lunch that includes reusable containers.
  • Buy company mugs; stop providing disposable cups.
  • Encourage customers to take home extra food.
  • Provide condiments in bulk dispensers.
  • Set up a water cooler for employees. Make sure they use a reusable mug or cup.
  • Purchase a worm bin for your office to convert food wastes (banana peels, coffee grounds) into high quality potting soil (vermicompost).
  • Buy reusable coffee filters or unbleached disposable filters.
  • Reuse trash can liners or eliminate where possible.
  • Consider using cloth roll towels, hot air dryers, large paper rolls in restrooms, or buy lighter/smaller-sized paper towels.

Train your employees

  • Custodial (they’re picking up in a different way).
  • Billing (they should see changes in billing).
  • All employees (what goes into the bin and what goes into the trash).
  • Warn that food scraps can contaminate the recycling bin.
  • Encourage rinsing out bottles and cans.
  • Newspapers, magazines and paper can go straight in the bin.
  • Encourage all employees to sign up for the 10% in 2010 Challenge.

Purchase the infrastructure

  • Indoor and outdoor recycling bins.
  • Bins for custodial to take the recyclables to the waste dumpsters.
  • Signage, including posters or stickers to remind what goes into the bin and what does not.

Start and monitor your Program

  • Report success to management and fellow employees.
  • Improve program where needed.
  • Continue and repeat process.

Do you have a success story? Contact us to be considered for the Recycling Champion award.

Get certified

Is your business already sustainable? Get recognized for it! Visit one of the sites below to see how you can receive a certification for your sustainability efforts at work.