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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Guest Post: Encouraging Your Employees To Recycle More

I am pleased to introduce this guest post Lee Newell, who has experience in recycling programs. He has some advise for engaging employees in a recycling program that you can use in your workplace. This advice is applicable for most new initiatives as you will see.

Recycling isn’t just a way of saving money, or even satisfying regulations. More and more, businesses are being judged on a wide range of credentials, including their environmental policy. Asking your employees to recycle as much as possible makes good sense from any number of angles. But how do you encourage busy people to make the change and swap landfill for the recycle bin?

Lean is all about maximum effectiveness for minimum effort and learning as you go. Take it as read that you’re not going to get everything right the first time, but as you find out what works then you can use those insights to expand your program. Here are some ideas for getting started.

1. Appoint a champion
First, you need someone to champion your cause. It doesn’t matter if you call them a Product Owner or Eco-warrior, but you need someone to organize your company’s recycling program – one point of contact for questions (and complaints), and one person with overall responsibility and oversight of what’s going on. Ideally this will be someone full of ideas and an infectious enthusiasm, who is able to communicate clearly why it’s so important to get it right.

2. Involve people
The most successful initiatives aren’t decreed from on-high. Whilst you need strong leadership, the more you can involve your people in the decisions that affect them, the more they are going to buy into them. You may need to set some time aside for training new and existing staff, but try to make it a collaborative process. The more they have input into the recycling program, and the more they understand why it matters to them, the easier it will be to implement.

3. Minimum effort, maximum impact
Don’t try to change the world all at once. People don’t like that – especially if they can’t see why it’s important. Start with one small, easy area. Paper is the obvious one. Estimates suggest that every office worker gets through around 10,000 sheets of paper a year – and two-thirds of that is wasted. Swapping the wastepaper basket for a recycle bin is a small step, especially if it’s right next to the photocopier or printer. It takes literally no effort to make the change, but there’s a big impact right off the bat. Similarly there will be obvious places for toner cartridges, drinks cans and bottles, and other common items. Reduce the number of general waste bins, and put them in places that mean they are a less easy option for recycling that should end up elsewhere.

4. Make it fun
Depending on the nature of your workforce, you can incentivise them to take part by various means. Run competitions to see who can come up with the best re-purposed or ‘upcycled’ office gadget/toy. Get them to nominate a charity to support by recycling old computers, toner cartridges and other hardware. Invite new ideas for reducing your carbon footprint or other environmental impacts.

5. Iterate
Small refinements can make a big difference. As you experiment and learn you’ll find ways to improve your recycling scheme. The famous book Nudge explores the idea of ‘choice architecture’ – changing behavior by the options you give people. For example, most employees generate a huge amount of waste paper every day (around two pounds on average), so it can make sense to have a personal recycle bin under every desk. Similarly, putting general waste bins in central places means that everyone else can see what you’re throwing away. Perhaps simplifying things so that a smaller range of items is recycled will result in a greater proportion of those things ending up in the right place. The idea is to create cultural norms in your organisation and encourage your staff to recycle without having to think hard about it at all.

About the Author:

Lee Newell is a marketing assistant at the experts in products for business - ESE Direct (http://www.esedirect.co.uk). ESE have a wide range of products to assist recycling in the workplace and always strive to make positive contributions to communities and the environment.When he's not busy blogging, Lee is a keen cyclist and often participates in charity bike rides.

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1 comment:

  1. The appoint a champion point is such an intuitive and important one. In my experience, it is the lack of such a person that causes some office recycling initiatives to start to tail off and eventually stop.

    Many schemes offer rewards for recycling and it is important to acknowledge the champion. This can either be monitory or a certificate / title.