Recycling at work – Business recycling

What is recycling and why should you do it?

What are the benefits of small business recycling?

How do you start a work recycling scheme?

How do you encourage people to recycle?

What are the different recycling symbols?

How to make sure you chose the right recycling provider

What is recycling and why should you do it?

In recent years, recycling has swiftly become part of our everyday lives, with the importance of doing so being buoyed by recent events such as the extinction rebellion protests. These protests, which took place in multiple countries across the world and were heavily documented upon by the media, called to our attention the damage that we as both individuals and companies are doing to the planet, as well as reinforcing the need for change. One way in which we can change for the better is through recycling more often.

Don’t worry. The concept of recycling is really straightforward. It simply refers to the process of converting waste materials into something new that can be used again and again, as opposed to simply throwing it away. For example, a plastic bottle can be recycled and turned into a wide array of items, including t-shirts and jumpers. Not only does this help to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill sites each year, it means that we do not need to source new materials through processes such as mining, which release harmful gasses and contributes to the destruction of the ozone layer. Recycling encourages us to be more mindful of our own environmental impact.

To put it simply, recycling is important because it is necessary. If we do not take the required steps to minimize our impact on the environment, then the negative side effects of our behaviour (as individuals and businesses) will have catastrophic consequences. In fact, in a 2019 UN conference, the UN leader announced that we are nearing the point of ‘no return’ in regards to climate change – to which improper waste disposable contributes massively. If climate change continues to develop and increase in severity, the world will look entirely different in a number of years. Already, global warming is resulting in the melting of the polar ice caps, accelerated sea levels, and the death of thousands upon thousands of animals.

Therefore, recycling is vital. As a result, we’ve put together a guide that will take you through the process of small business in-house recycling, putting you on the right side of history.

What are the benefits of small business recycling?

Positive Environmental Impact

When you recycle, you are ensuring that your business waste, from paper to plastic and anything in-between, does not get sent to landfill sites. This is vitally important, as whilst plastic can be reused and repurposed multiple times, when sent to a landfill it can take upwards of 500 years to decompose naturally (often longer). The decomposition process will also emit methane gas, which is a key player in the destruction of the ozone layer, contributing significantly to global warming. While we most typically associate carbon dioxide (CO2) to the destruction of the ozone layer, studies reported upon by the BBC found that methane actually produces 21 times as much warming as CO2.

Financial Benefits

By setting up an in-house recycling scheme, you are saving yourself money in the long run as you do not have to rely on waste disposal companies to pick up and recycle your waste for you. Furthermore, setting up an in-house recycling scheme does not cost a large amount of money and means you can reduce your carbon footprint significantly.

Furthermore, when working with the environment in mind, you are likely to be more mindful of the kind of materials and resources you purchase for your company.

Improved Company Image

In addition to recycling, recent years have shown an increase in ethical consumerism. That is, people are more likely to work with a company or purchase products from them if the company’s morals and ethos match their own. By taking steps towards being a more eco-friendly and sustainable company, you are instantly making your company or business more attractive to the consumer and potentially providing yourself with an increase in income. They know that when purchasing a product from your company, they can trust that the materials were sourced ethically, and they will be helping protect the environment with every penny that they spend.

How do you start a work recycling scheme?

Step 1: Identify your waste

The first thing you need to consider when setting up in-house recycling is ensuring you are aware of the different kinds of waste your company produces. Although it may seem appealing to simply throw all your waste away at the same time, different products need to be disposed of in different ways, though the large majority can be recycled or given a new life.

Waste that can be easily recycled:


The above list is by no means exhaustive, but you can probably tell that a large amount of office or business waste can be recycled with minimal effort. Other forms of waste, such as WEEE waste (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) and office furniture can also be recycled, though they may need to be broken down first as not every part of them is suitable for recycling. However, if the products are in good working order, you may want to see if a local charity or shelter can take them off your hands instead.

If your company works with waste that is potentially hazardous, you also need to ensure that this is properly and safely disposed of.

Step 2: Get your employees and customers on board

It is easy enough to say that your company is moving towards sustainability, the difficult task is actually in enforcing this change and ensuring it is put into practice each and every day. For example, if you are trying to ensure everything that can be recycled is recycled, this is the individual duty of each employee. There are many different ways in which you can get employees involved, but the secret is to ensure that you do not overcomplicate the process.

Here are some steps you can take:

Add recycling bins to your office.

Do not chastise employees who make a mistake, as this will become wearisome, instead encourage positive change without being condescending.

Hold a meeting to discuss that you will now be working to ensure that you recycle in house. Ensure any questions are answered.

Including recycling awareness in the programme when training new employees, and offer the training to current employees too.

Assigning the role of ‘helper’ to several members of your team. In addition to their regular duties, this person can work to ensure that proper procedures are being followed each day, and provide feedback on what areas could be improved upon moving forward.

Posters, whether around the office or as you enter the building are another great way to promote recycling within the office. Bright colours and bold designs are sure to catch the employees’ eye and ensure that recycling remains at the forefront of their minds.

Getting customers on board is perhaps much easier, as very little changes for the customer in regards to what they have to do. However, be sure to advertise your companies commitment to sustainability and encourage them to recycle their waste when possible. Again, this can be achieved through posters and advertising, perhaps on your company packaging or website. Remember, transparency is key, and whilst it is important that you do not make outlandish claims, feel free to share the positive work you are doing – you are part of the ‘green heroes’, and that deserves due praise!

You may also want to introduce incentives for customers to encourage them to recycle. For example, if a customer returns the packaging of a product to you in order to ensure it is properly and safely disposed of, they earn a small percentage of their next purchase or a free gift. This will encourage more customers to get involved in the scheme. You can also encourage recycling and eco-friendly practices in the company by offering prizes to the department that recycles the most products each month.

Step 3: Put a strict waste system in place.

Recycling will only work if you ensure a strict system is put into place and that all those involved within the running of the company adhere to it. Luckily, establishing such a system is not difficult.

Hang up posters detailing what can and can’t be recycled in the office, either by listing products or including images. Encourage employees to ensure products are clean (especially if they have contained food or drink) before they are put into the recycling bin.
Ensure all waste bins are properly labelled, to ensure waste is properly disposed of and items aren’t placed in the wrong bins on error.
Colour code your bins to make the process of throwing things away easier and quicker.

Step 4: Think about the products you purchase.

Another way in which you can demonstrate your companies commitment to the environment is through ensuring that all products you purchase and use within your company are also eco-friendly. Promoting recycling could seem rather hypocritical if you aren’t ensuring that every aspect of your business works to support the environment, particularly in relation to the products you purchase.

Therefore, when purchasing a product is important you keep an eye out for important information pertaining to how sustainable the product is. For example, you should question:

    What is the product made of?
    Is the material recycled?
    Is the product designed for single or multiple uses?
    If non-recyclable, can the product be reused in new ways after use?
    Does the product contain potentially harmful or hazardous chemicals?
    How are the materials used in creating the product gathered?
    Does the company you are purchasing from operate with the environment in mind?
    Is the product biodegradable?

Sometimes, this might mean that you have to spend a little more money when purchasing materials or goods, as opposed to selecting the cheapest option available. On the bright side, this means that the quality of the products you produce will be higher too. Rest assured, an investment into eco-friendly products is always worth the money in the long run.

Step 5: Ensure you understand the ins and outs of recycling.

As mentioned previously, not every product can be recycled or recycled completely. Therefore, it is important that you understand the different kinds of waste and can therefore sort your waste accordingly.

Office/business waste that can be recycled:

    Paper (Office paper, reports, shredded documents, envelopes, etc)
    Cardboard (Boxes, packaging)
    Drinks cans, plastic bottles.
    Empty ink cartridges
    Plastic (Containers, packaging, bubble wrap, plastic bags)

Office/ business waste that can be recycled but has strict guidelines on how it should be disposed of:

WEEE waste

    Computers / Laptops
    Kitchen Equipment (Coffee makers, fridges, freezers, microwave)

Office/ business waste that cannot be recycled with ease:

How do you encourage people to recycle?

Raise Awareness

One of the easiest ways in which you can encourage others to recycle is through raising awareness in regards to the sheer importance of it. Ensure you remain up to date with all of the information and recent reports regarding the state of this environment and spread awareness by sharing any information that comes to light. For example:

1 Million sea creatures are killed each year when plastic waste is thrown into the ocean as opposed to being recycled.
It is predicted that by the year 2025, the world’s biggest cities will produce at least 10x the amount of waste they produced in 2009.
In the UK, we could run out of space in landfill sites in as little as six to eight years.
It’s estimated that around 60% of the waste we send to landfill sites can actually be recycled.

Offer incentives

As mentioned previously, incentives, whether financial or otherwise, are a great way to encourage employees and customers to be more diligent in regards to waste disposal. By offering them some kind of reward for their work, you are encouraging them to hold themselves accountable for the waste they produce, and hopefully instilling them with the knowledge they need to continue recycling and taking care of the environment in the future.

Lead by example

It is always important that you practice what you preach. Ensure that employees and customers alike are aware of the steps you are taking to better protect the environment – both personally and within the business. Do your own recycling – don’t delegate the task to another employee – being actively involved in the process means employees are more likely to follow suit.

In addition to recycling, there are numerous steps you can take to pave the way for other businesses and companies moving towards a more sustainable future, such as though reducing water usage on site and transferring to green or renewable energy, such as solar panelling.

Another key factor in regards to leading by example is to ensure that you maintain transparency. If you have made a mistake in regards to being eco-friendly, be open and honest, and discuss how you will rectify this moving forward.

What are the different recycling symbols?

In order to promote recycling and ensure consumers are aware of what products can be recycled, many companies are now opting to label their products accordingly. However, different symbols have different meanings, and it’s important that you are aware of the slight differences, as they change the way in which you can dispose of the product.

Ever wondered who invented the recycling symbol? Click here to find out.

This symbol means that the product can (and should) be recycled. You do not need to do anything to it in order for it to be disposed of safely.
Recycle Symbol
Products with this symbol on the packaging must be rinsed with clean water before you recycle them. This typically applies to products that have contained food or drink.
Rinse before you recycle
Although the logos below will look similar to the typical recycling logo, they actually refer to the type of plastic the product is made from. Most are easily recyclable, though some may need to be taken to special collection points (the process of which can be handled by your recycling provider).

Polyethylene Terephthalate
Polyethylene Terephthalate recycle symbol
This is the most widely used type of plastic and is typically used in plastic bottles amongst other products. Fully recyclable.

High-Density Polyethylene
high density polyethylene plastic symbol
This is typically ‘coloured’ plastic, such as that used to create bottles for cleaning products/milk containers. Fully recyclable.

Polyvinyl Chloride
PVC plastic symbol
This product is used for packaging, particularly meat and food but is rather difficult to recycle. However, recycling this product is not impossible.

Low-Density Polyethylene
LDPE plastic symbol
This product is used in shampoo bottles and sauces. Most plastic products that you can ‘squeeze’ are made from this material. Although they are recyclable, they may need to be taken to a specialist facility in order to do so.

polypoylene plastic symbol
This product can be found in yoghurt pots and bottle caps. Again, you may need to take them to a specialist facility in order to be recycled properly.

polystyrene plastic symbol
Polystyrene is found in packaging for hot food but is difficult to recycle, and many companies are unable to do so.

Visit our recycling and waste symbol page for more information.

Other types of plastic

This refers to any plastics that do not fall into the above categories, but once again it is likely that they can be easily recycled.

Did you know there are over 50 different types of plastic? To learn in more detail about the different types of plastic click here.

How to make sure you chose the right recycling provider

Once you have made the commitment and decided to recycle in house, you then need to decide who your recycling provider will be. Your provider will be in charge of collecting your recyclable waste and ensuring that it is properly, ethically, and safely disposed of. They may also be able to take your non-recyclable waste and ensure that too is safely disposed of.

Top tip checklist when choosing a waste management partner
Check for reviews online. You can read all our customer reviews by clicking here for Google reviews and here for Trust Pilot reviews.
Watch out for hidden costs such as any form of charges for a waste transfer note/duty of care, bin rental charges, excessive costs for overweight charges. BusinessWaste does not have any hidden costs.

At BusinessWaste, we work hard to make the process of recycling as easy as possible for you, your clients, and your company. We can provide you with outdoor recycling bins in a range of sizes, including:

120-litre wheelie bin
240-litre wheelie bin
360-litre wheelie bin
660-litre wheelie bin
1100-litre wheelie bin

The size of your bin, will, of course, depend upon the number of products that you intend to recycle, and will be coloured coded to ensure that you know which products belong in which bin. This helps eliminate the chances of contamination during the disposal process (i.e. mixing glass with paper).

If you’re a large scale company, you may benefit instead from having a larger waste disposal unit on site, such as:

Reader end loader (8yd-16yd)
Front end loader (6yrd-10yd)
Skip (6yd-12yd)
Roll off (6yd)
Balers and compactors.

As your recycling provider, we will do all of the hard work on your behalf, meaning you can sit back and relax once we have collected the waste. You’ll rest easy knowing you are helping to protect the environment for future generations. This means, once hired, we will take full responsibility for the waste and ensure that it is disposed of in the most ethical manner possible. For example, at BusinessWaste we strive to ensure that all products are taken to the appropriate recycling facilities. When this is not possible, we ensure products are taken to the most appropriate place such as anaerobic digestion or waste to energy facilities. We will try to never take waste products to the landfill.

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