Change the World, One Green Office at A Time

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Change the World, One Green Office at A Time

Office Recycling

I sat down one day and began to make a list of all the things that could be recycled in an office. It’s quite extensive actually. I even began to feel a bit guilty, even though I already am quite concerned about the masses of waste building in landfills, when I found that up to 90% of office waste can be recycled! It seems we can always find a way to do better and make our place of work more of a green office.

That being said, maybe we can all take a look at this list and choose one to add to our office checklist a month. Is there a closet that can be set aside for bins and have someone take them out at the end of the day?

 

Paper

This one is easy. Almost any paper can be recycled but, here’s the kicker; only eight times before the cellulose fibers break down. Some places will accept shredded paper and others won’t. Check with your local recycler. If your paper must be shredded and there is not a recycling pick-up option for you, try these other ideas:

Animal bedding, make worm bins for gardens, use as mulch, make homemade papers of your own, use it for packing and storage to protect items, or make fire logs for cool winter chill. Some creative recyclers are also making furniture and boats out of them. Where there is a will, there’s a way.

So if it’s paper and not covered in soil (like tissues) or any sort of un-papery coating such as wax or foils, put it in a tub and find a recycler to take it. The average office worker generates 1.5 pounds of waste paper per day – and most of it can be recycled!

Make sure you shop for the paper you already used. When at the office supply store, choose recycled papers and envelopes. They come in beautiful forms and you’ll look good and feel good, too.

Coated Paper

What about the waxy papers such as milk and juice cartons? You’ll be happy to know that these “poly-coated paperboard containers” that have the gables tops are also recyclable. But you need to keep these separate from other papers after rinsing. They go through a special hydro-pulping process to clean them for reuse.

Newspaper

These can be tied in bundles and neatly stacked. An added bonus for those who recycle newspaper – do you have any gardeners or wanna-be gardeners? The easiest way to begin a garden is with newspaper.
Lay it down on the ground, right over lawn and you never have to dig it up. On top of the newspaper, lay down straw. Next year, plant right through it and you’ll have added to the environment and taken away from your grocery bill.  (Psst!  You won’t even have to weed!) This is an excellent way to recycle!

Glass

What about all those bud vases that clutter up the cupboards? Have everyone bring them back to the office for a grand display of love for our home by sending them all back to bring joy to flower receivers again. An important thing to remember is that ceramics are not true glass, so don’t contaminate the glass bin with them. Keep colored glass separate from one another, crystal and heat resistant glass can’t go here either.

Aluminum

Keep a magnet handy. If a magnet won’t stick to it, chances are you should rinse it off and place it into the aluminum bin with the foil from the lunchroom, the soda cans on all the desks, and scraps of broken fixtures that might turn up once in awhile.

Plastic

What is NOT made of plastic any more? Since plastic hit the global market with a vengeance back in the 1970′s we have been amazed by its flexibility of service to our species. Then we were amazed at how much we used! Fight back. Collect anything plastic, rinse it out, divide by the numbers in the little recycling triangles on each piece, and put it in a plastic bin with a plastic smiley face on it and haul it out on the plastic cart. Hooray!

Steel

You may not have much of this, but if a magnet sticks, go ahead and put it in the bin for steel. Canned foods from the kitchen will fall into this category much of the time.

Trash Bags

If they are not soiled, don’t pull them out with the trash. Dump them into the larger bin and reuse the trash can liners. Some of them are expensive, too, so you can save money in your maintenance budget.

Computers

One thing about data is that is can come back and bite you as well as the environment. All your data machines can be erased and recycled. Contact a reputable electronics recycler to pick up your dinosaur friends, wipe them clean electronically, and send them off to be safely reused.

Furniture

You can buy refurbished furniture and not even notice the difference. Do the earth a favor and shop for used and refurbished. And when you need something else, kindly find a way to get the furniture you are replacing into the hands of someone who can really use it. Donate to charity, offer it in ads, let employees know that if they can think of someone who can use it, to please contact them.

Batteries

These can be nasty little things. Get thee to a recycle bin! Call2Recycle is an amazing company and the the only one in North America that picks up cell phones and rechargeable batteries. That’s pretty cool! And if you happen to have a car battery in the lounge make sure that is recycled as well, but if you have one there you probably already know that.

Cardboard

You may have already thought of this one up there in the paper paragraph, but if not, get your corrugation in line and recycle twice. First, take the box home for the kids to play with, then bring it back and get it recycled. Two for the price of one.

Ink Cartridges

There are lots of these laying around everywhere. Keep a small, plastic lined box nearby so you can drop the used containers directly in when changing them out without a mess.

Glossy Magazines

If you think these can’t be recycled you are mistaken just like I was. That used to be true back when recycling was taking its first baby steps, but no longer. Magazines and catalogs are good to go.

Phone Books

These are 100% recyclable. That’s a lot of trees.

Light Bulbs

CFL and fluorescent bulbs contain mercury, a highly poisonous element. These need to be recycled and you can obtain kits that will help you do the job safely. Aren’t you glad THAT’s not going into the water supply?

These things have certainly got me started. Now, how to get the whole office excited? If they don’t want to wear a superhero cape for helping to save the world, how about party where everyone dresses in green when you reach a milestone – say 1 ton in waste saved from the landfill?

I would love to hear about any recyclable items I’ve missed or ideas on how you could implement ideas to get the office involved.


David Ching works with EQA Office Furniture, a progressive company that sells quality office furniture in both new and refurbished selections. Photo by Class V

Greener Ideal is an independent environmental news and lifestyle publication that has been curating content since 2008 to further the green movement. The views expressed by contributing authors are their own and may not reflect those of Greener Ideal.