Getting started: Know your waste
The first step to recycling is knowing what you are throwing away.
- What kind and how much waste do you have?
- What types of recyclables do you have?
- How much is recyclable but thrown away?
- Video: How to Conduct a Waste Assessment; also available en Español
- Simple: Waste assessment checklist
- General: Solid waste assessment
- In depth: How to do a waste sort
Building owners: If tenants generate similar recyclables, a centralized collection area in a trash room or loading dock is an effective and efficient way to provide recycling for all tenants. Provide flexible recycling options to accommodate the needs of your tenants. Some may produce significantly different recyclable materials.
Tenants: Work with your building owner to develop a recycling program that works for all or most of the tenants. Be willing to seek out separate recycling services for unique or business-specific materials such as plastic wrap, plastic strapping, textiles, or wood pallets.
Getting started: Know your hauler
Questions to ask your waste hauler
- What types of recyclables do you pick up?
- How should recyclables be sorted?
- Is there a minimum amount required for pick up?
- Do you provide bins or dumpsters?
- How is the pick-up service scheduled (weekly or on-call)?
- Can you weigh or measure my trash and recyclables?
- What are your payment terms? Are they flexible to accommodate variable waste and recycling amounts, or is it a flat fee?
- Do you require a contract for service? How often is it renewed?
- Can you provide references?
If your hauling contract is up for renewal, consider requesting competitive bids from other local haulers.
If you have less recycling than a hauler will pick up, several counties operate drop-off centers. Or consider working with a nearby business to share a hauler.
Setting up a successful recycling program
How-to guide: get started or improve your recycling. This guide from Hennepin County provides a framework to get you started, even if you aren’t in Hennepin County.
- Put recycling bins next to every trash bin. No solo trash bins.
- Make sure bins are visible and easy to get to.
- Use clear, consistent bin colors. Blue bins are always recyclables. Green bins are always organics.
- Some counties offer funding assistance to purchase bins and labels.
Signs and labels
- Use clear, consistent signs and labels.
- Tailor signs with pictures of your most common wastes.
- For printable bin labels, visit the Recycle More media toolkit.
- Consistent labels and bins throughout your building will increase participation and reduce the amount of recyclable materials put in the wrong bins.
Outdoor bins and enclosures
- Contact your hauler to find the right size and type of enclosures to accommodate recycling bins. Haulers often provide space planning guides on their websites.
- Make outdoor enclosures easily accessible for trucks.
- Check to make sure the gate will swing open during winter.
- Keep in mind that you aren’t making more waste, you’re merely sorting it differently. You might have a few small dumpsters instead of one large one, and they might fit in the enclosure you have now.
- City codes often have requirements for the look and location of enclosures.
- You may need to request a variance from your city if you need to make your enclosure bigger. Be sure to plan enough space for future increases in your recycling or organics collection.
Training and commitment
- If you have a janitorial service, include them as you plan and implement recycling. Get them on board early and work together to make adjustments over time.
- Employee and tenant participation and training are crucial to the success of a commercial recycling program. Talk with employees and tenants about your recycling program and get them on board.
- Highlight how the recycling program can save money and tie into company values. Make it easy for employees and tenants to figure out what is recyclable. Track progress and use this information to motivate employees and tenants.
Reduce and reuse
- Reducing waste
- Figure out where your waste comes from; work with your suppliers to reduce the waste they send you, especially packaging
Reusing is better than recycling
What are the costs?
- Recyclables are tax exempt. Recycle more and pay less in taxes.
- State and local solid waste taxes are only applied to trash.
- State taxes are 17 percent, county taxes can be as high as 53 percent.
- Target high volume recyclable materials in your building to maximize your savings.
- Keeping recyclables out of the trash may mean you can reduce the amount or frequency of trash collection. Contact your hauler to discuss “right-sizing” your service and see what you might save on your monthly bill.
- If your hauling contract is up for renewal, consider requesting competitive bids from other local haulers.
- Get grant funding – most metro counties have grant funding to help you pay for bins, signage, staff training, subsidized hauler services, equipment, and more. In greater Minnesota, members of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce can contact Minnesota Waste Wise for free assistance and grants.