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Three Steps to Elevate Your Recycling Program

With so many headlines about pollution and climate change, it’s not hard to feel overwhelmed by how to respond to environmental expectations as well as regulations. For building operators and other real estate professionals, establishing a robust recycling program is one way to meet the demand for eco-friendly property management, while also complying with state and local mandates to divert trash from landfills. In Jeff Roney’s recent article in Propmodo, he discussed the three ways you can foster enthusiastic participation in your recycling program with both tenants and employees.

1. Start with a Waste Audit
The process for establishing a recycling program is similar for residential and commercial properties. In both cases, the first step is to identify the different types of waste being generated. The easiest and simplest way to do this is with a basic waste audit. While more in-depth audits may separate materials by type and measure waste by quantity and volume, a more basic audit can be as simple as observing and tracking what types of materials are going to landfill versus recycling. These types of audits can be performed with a minimal investment of time and labor to yield valuable information for a successful recycling program.

Given their potential ROI, it’s important to know what goes into a well-done waste audit. A waste audit provides a snapshot of a company’s trash at a specific moment in time. The process begins by dividing waste into substrates—plastic, paper, metal, etc. Once you know what you’ve got, your auditors will weigh everything and calculate the total volume. From there, the audit can separate waste into recyclable commodities, hazardous wastes, and garden-variety trash. The audit will also track where everything is going and identify any areas of non-compliance.

2. Communicate Recycling Goals
Promoting your recycling program will be a deciding factor in its success. Establish clear goals and quantifiable benchmarks, then communicate them to tenants to encourage compliance. Start with a baseline of how much waste your community currently diverts from landfill and set a specific target for where you’d like to be. Once you’ve determined goals and benchmarks, provide tenants and employees with actionable steps they can take to achieve them.

Although communications with commercial and residential tenants share some common elements—like where and how to recycle materials—there are some important differences as well. In general, communications with residential tenants should emphasize the availability of the recycling program and its convenience. By contrast, communications with commercial tenants should provide more information on the types of materials that can be recycled to adhere to local mandates and avoid fines for non-compliance.

3. Leverage Technology
To maximize the efficiency of your recycling program, the use and aid of technologies like mobile apps are speeding up auditing processes and provide quick, accurate reporting. You can also upload photos of waste and record the weights of various materials. Using GPS, many of these apps can even pinpoint the location of recycling containers and equipment in relation to tenants. This information can be invaluable for determining the optimal placement of recycling containers and greatly increase overall compliance with your recycling program.

To leverage the use of technology, make sure you have qualified people on hand to interpret your data, or consider retaining a facility services company with expertise in this area. Having somebody who can distill the information and do accurate reporting is critical to using the information effectively.
On the subject of looking for a third-party specialist in waste management, you want to choose a company with a lot of experience in all three of these areas. At RWS, our experienced national project managers, along with our robust analytics and fierce negotiating teams can assist in designing, implementing and managing recycling and waste programs for both commercial and residential customers. Call us today to see how we can help you get your recycling program to the next level.