hero-news-tools

4 Reasons Why Your Recycling Program Is Failing

recycling program fails

Nothing is more frustrating then having the good intention to make your organization more sustainable by implementing a recycling program only to discover in a few months that little progress has been made in reducing your waste.  If this sounds familiar, don’t worry because you’re not alone.  Implementing an effective recycling program can seem intimidating but don’t panic its easier than you think.  We sat down with our team of CleanRiver experts to share the 4 main reasons why recycling programs fail and how you can set yourself up for success, and meet your waste diversion goals for 2018.

CleanRiver Team

CleanRiver Team

Here are 4 Reasons Why Your Recycling Program Is Failing:

1. No Management Buy-In, Causes Lack Of Involvement From Employees

Like any successful initiative it must start from the top down and getting management’s buy-in is the first step in avoiding recycling program failure. You need more than the “OK” from management.  You need their full support and for them to embrace the program.  If management has a clear understanding of the purpose and benefits of your company’s recycling program they are more likely to prioritize the initiative in terms of budget, communication and education.

giphy (22)

 Benefits of a commercial recycling program (to woo your boss) include:

  • Reduce waste hauling fees
  • Reduce Custodial costs
  • Improve your company’s Social ROI
  • An effective recycling program attracts Higher Quality Recruits
  • Increase your waste diversion rate
  • Reduce operational costs
  • Increase worker safety
  • Enhance community relations
  • Begin generating revenue for the company

Once you have convinced management that a recycling program is important, you need them to lead by example and set clear expectations for the employees.  If management doesn’t care about it why should the employees care? The organization’s that have the most success in terms of recycling are the ones where their management team WALKS THE WALK.  To help plan a pitch to your boss on the importance of starting a program check out 3 Ways to Convince Your Boss To Start A Recycling Program.

2. Lack Of Education Leads To Ineffective Participation

As Oprah always says “When you know better, you do better.”  And we couldn’t agree more when it comes to recycling programs.giphy (23)Employees are an integral part of any program’s success, so it’s imperative that everyone’s properly educated on how they can effectively participate.  Proper training is crucial and at CleanRiver we believe that the recycling program should be a part of every employee handbook; highlighting the program’s purpose, the sustainability goals and the expectations of all staff is essential to avoiding recycling program failure.

Restaurant Recycling program

Just Salads Employees were trained on how to recycle effectively with CleanRiver bins.

Quick Tips To Educate:

  • Use monthly meetings, emails, flyers and posters to help educate staff on how to separate their waste.
  • Set up a Green Team of employees across the organization to set clear goals internally and externally with a timeline and determine how success will be measure and monitored.
  • Use high impact graphics along with clear posters and signage throughout the facility to help educate visitors on how to recycle their waste effectively.
  • Communicate the placement of all the bins and identify the different streams being collected.
office recycling program

Use high impact graphics to help guide users.

CleanRiver’s 3C of recycling: Culture, Communication & Collection is a great way to ensure recycling program success.

3. Poor Signage/ Ineffective Graphics Increases Contamination Rates

Employees and visitors have 2-3 seconds to decide where to put an item when disposing of their waste.  If your recycling program has stream signage that’s unclear or confusing you’re most likely increasing your contamination rates.  From showing people exactly what goes where, to communicating your sustainability message, graphics are an extremely powerful component of any recycling program, but too often we see companies missing the mark.

Color-Coded-Graphics

  • Graphics that stand out and clearly communicate what needs to go into that bin are critical for success.
  • Less is definitely more though when it comes to the number of images. Too many visuals can become confusing and so people give up and toss their waste into the nearest bin.  You can see why effective graphics can make a huge difference in improving  a failing recycling program.
  • Clear, concise graphics build recycling program awareness, and when people recycle correctly, stream contamination is vastly reduced. Graphics can be customized with images of actual waste such as branded food containers. They can also include sustainability messages and be swapped out with new graphics to adapt to changing needs.
recycling program

Google used graphics & door posters to build program awareness.

Check out our Guide on the Best Practices in Recycling Graphics.

4. Lack Of Standardization Leads to Recycling Program Confusion

And finally, if your recycling program is failing it may have to do with the fact that you are missing the CleanRiver K.I.S.S: Keep It Simple. Standardize!

  • Every recycling program needs consistency to make it simple and easy for employees to do the right thing.
  • Develop consistent visual standards with key colours and opening shapes throughout the facility so people can quickly learn how to recycle properly.
  • Don’t overcomplicate your stream graphics and use clear images of what items belong in each stream.
  • Be sure to refresh your program regularly and update your bin streams and graphics as your stream collections may change.

Graphics Help Drive Program Success

recycling graphics to avoid recycling program failure

For more information on how to start a recycling program, check out our past blogs 3 Ways To Convince Your Boss To Start A Recycling Program and  How To Get A Recycling Grant.


CleanRiver Recycling provides a variety of innovative, flexible and customizable recycling solutions. To determine the right solution to meet your needs, use the CleanRiver product selector.

If you have additional questions that weren’t answered in this blog post please call us at 1-888-646-4246 or email solutions@cleanriver.com.