Sustainability Manager’s Recycling Program Checklist

Being tasked with implementing a facility-wide recycling program can be overwhelming for a Sustainability Manager. Here’s a quick checklist to help you nail it!

1. Conduct a waste audit

This helps determine how much waste your facility produces and the type of waste being generated. Use this waste audit tool kit to help you plan and execute your next waste audit.

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2. Work with your custodial team

This helps to identify any current collection issues with your recycling program. The custodial team often have a unique perspective and provide valuable input into the design of containers that will work best in your facility.

Including the custodial team during the design stage will also help the sustainability manager to engage them in the recycling program because they will feel ownership due to their valuable input.

3. Look at your floor plan and traffic flow.

Use the data from your waste audit to identify the areas where waste is typically generated. You can then identify the type of bins you’ll need for these areas in terms of capacity and stream collection. Black & McDonald who achieved a 93% diversion rate, looked at their traffic flow and mapped out the placement of recycling bins on a floor plan before they implemented their recycling program.

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Black & McDonald plotted all recycling, e-waste and confidential paper bins on a floor plan.

4. Securing budget

Securing budget for a recycling program can sometimes be a challenge because they often incorrectly thought of as an expense rather than a business investment. There are many ways your recycling program can generate funds through rebates and incentives and even cost reduction processes. Read this article on solutions for campus recycling funding for more ideas.

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5. Select the right capacity.

Look at your waste audit results of your facility to determine the capacity of containers you’ll need. Talk to your waste hauler about which streams you’re able to collect, this varies by city and region. For example, you’ll need to know whether you collect your recyclables together (commingled or single stream) or whether you need to separate out cans and bottles from paper.Single-Stream-vs-Separated,Sustainability Manager, Facility Manager, recycling program, office recycling, business recycling, campus recycling

6. Select containers that have changeable posters or graphics.

Your recycling program is going to change over time and you need to communicate these changes to the people using the bins.

If your containers don’t have recycling labels then create posters and stick them to the wall next to the recycling bin. This helps people make the right choice when they go to toss their waste.

 Indoor Campus Recyling and Waste Container with recycling labels, Sustainability Manager, Facility Manager, recycling program, office recycling, business recycling, campus recycling  Indoor Campus Recyling and Waste Container with recycling labels and recycling images, Sustainability Manager, Facility Manager, recycling program, office recycling, business recycling, campus recycling
Recycling bin with text only graphics Recycling bin with facility-specific waste images and text

A University of Toronto study found that when they added recycling posters to their containers with clear images of facility waste their diversion rate went up 163 %.

7. Choose restrictive, color-coordinated openings

They are key to helping people use the recycling program effectively. The Xcel Energy Center maintains consistent colors for the recycling bin openings and recycling posters throughout their facility. This helped them recycle 66% of their waste.

8. Keep bins together.

If you are opting for individual bins per stream, make sure you connect them together. When you have different stand- alone bins (called Rogue and Orphans) they can easily become separated. When that happens people don’t know which bin to use, they just use the nearest one.

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Rogue and Orphan Bins

9. Create awareness before your bins arrive.

Tell everyone about the recycling program; what your goals are, where the bins will be located, and what exactly is recyclable.

Having a recycling program launch helps build awareness and get people on board. Culture is the number one driver of recycling program success, so help people get passionate and about what you’re doing.

Communication was a key component in the Toronto Transit Commission’s recycling program. Senior Construction Inspector JohnTran, says “An email was sent to each department head before they received the new bins, letting them know about the new “no waste office” program. This messaging was then trickled down to the employees.”

The TTC has achieved a 70% diversion waste with their office waste recycling program.

10. After launch monitor and evaluate

Monitor and evaluate your recycling program by conducting another waste audit after launch. This identifies areas for improvement. Recently during a waste audit, a CleanRiver client identified that compostable plastic salad containers that had been introduced to their cafeteria were ending up in the garbage rather than the organics collection stream. The organization updated the graphics on their recycling containers to include an image of the compostable plastic container and emailed all employees to let them know that it was, in fact, compostable and not garbage.

People want to do the right thing. Empower them to do so by providing the information to assist them to make the right decision when tossing their waste.

If you’d like more information on how to implement a rock star of a recycling program, please call us at 1 (888) 646-4246 or email

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