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Go Green at Work by Starting a Paper Recycling Initiative!

written by: •edited by: Wendy Finn•updated: 5/27/2011

Getting your colleagues to recycle their paperwork will be a lot easier if you put important protocol into place. For example, if you have recycling bins in each office, workers will have to travel a shorter distance to get rid of unwanted paper. Find tips for starting business paper recycling.

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    Turn your current paper practices on their head by starting a recycling initiative at your company If you're at all like me, you've been the individual in your office responsible for taking out the trash and wondered, "Wow, that's an awful lot of paper in the trash bin!" Approximately 95% of information communicated in an office is communicated using paper. When you take into account the fact that much of that information then finds its way into the trash, you can imagine how quickly paper is wasted. While the long-term objectives of a company may be to go paperless, there is still al lot of paper waste produced. It is important, then, to find ways to create enthusiasm for recycling, rather than trashing the paper.

    There are many ways to go about doing this. The most important thing to remember when you are trying to initiate a new program for recycling paper in your company is that this should be treated as a change management project. You are trying to get the people who are in your company to go from the current way of doing things to a new way of doing things.

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    A Call to Change Staff Practices

    When you're initiating any project or attempt to go green in your company, you'll have a more successful run of it if you treat it as a change management project. There are a few ways to go about this - the best is to follow the ADKAR framework for change:

    1. Increase awareness in your employees about the importance of the change. If you point out the need and importance of implementing a paper recycling system in your company, then you will get better results. Perhaps you should have a meeting where you point out why such a program is important.
    2. Once you create the awareness, you need to have employees who desire to make the necessary changes to achieve success in the program. What incentives are there for the company should this program be implemented? How will a recycling system make their lives better?
    3. Give employees the necessary knowledge to create the change. What are the benefits of recycling? How much paper is wasted in the company? Where will the recycled paper go? How much will it cost the company to implement such a program?
    4. Make it easy and give employees the ability to change. It is vital that your employees have the ability to easily recycle their paperwork. Otherwise, paper will wind up in the same place it always has - the trash bin under their desk.
    5. Reinforce the change you are trying to create in your employees. Remind them why it's important to recycle. Correct employees when they make mistakes, be sure you follow through with the recycling process.

    By following the above five steps, you will not only make it salient in the minds of your employees as to why a recycling plan is important to your company and the outside world, but you will also make the process of starting the recycling program much easier on yourself and your fellow employees.

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    Demonstrating Commitment

    It does no good to start a recycling program if the key players are not participating in it. When you start your program, make sure that all management personnel is committed to - and demonstrates this commitment to - the implementation of a recycling program. If employees see their managers tossing paper into the trash bin rather than recycling the paperwork, they will be far less likely to follow the new program. It's important to start the change in the management before you start the change in the employees. By the time you have the meeting that explains the new policies, most of your employees should have seen, recently, managers recycling their unneeded paperwork.

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    Making it Easy

    If employees need to walk to a special room where they recycle unwanted paperwork, the change is unlikely to be successful. You need to make the recycling easy for employees. Here are a few tips for doing so:

    • Think about ordering free recycling boxes from Recycle at Work to keep desk side so that employees don't have to move from their desks to recycle.
    • Even if you don't use special boxes, make sure there is some container at each desk to capture recyclable paper.
    • Rather than having a single central location for recycling, consider the possibility of having multiple locations for gathering recycling materials at the end of the day, or when desk side bins are full.
    • Make it easy for your employees to know what can be recycled and what cannot be recycled when it comes to paper by having a checklist they can refer to until the process becomes automatic.
    • Make yourself available to answer questions when someone encounters points where they feel unsure about what can be recycled and what cannot.

    Be sure that you follow up with employees in the beginning. Are the central recycling locations convenient? What would make it easier to follow through with recycling paperwork?

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    Confidential Paperwork

    Once concern employees are bound to have will concern the handling of confidential paperwork. Many employees will likely worry about sensitive information. It's important to make a clear and consistent plan for handling private files. Should employees shred such paperwork? Will the shredding be recycled? Is there a special place confidential papers should go? By having a plan in place, you can answer the unease that often arises from ambiguity in handling such papers.

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    Follow Through

    Finally, it is important to follow through with the business paper recycling plan. If employees notice that the papers are piling up and no one is taking the paperwork in (or worse, the bins are overflowing and someone simply throws the paper into the regular trash), then they will be far less likely to follow through on their own. It's important to designate how the recycling will occur. Will an outside company pick up the recycling? How often? Will someone from the business take in the recycling? Where? How often? What happens if that person is sick or cannot do it? By having a plan for the follow-through, you can ensure that the project will last and be successful.

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    Recycle at Work

    Recycle Spot

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