Recycling Mistakes People and Businesses are Still Making in 2016

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It’s 2016, and we’re supposed to be well past this point. Recycling has been in the local and national spotlight for decades, yet millions of Americans and businesses aren’t doing their part. In particular, they’re making mistakes that can only be chalked up to a lack of consumer education.

Consumer Education is Key

Whether its customers or businesses, recycling education is a key component of high participation rates. According to Will Flower, president of a New York-based recycling company, “Good recycling education programs explain, inform, motivate, persuade and encourage people to recycle. Such education is needed to change behavior and to create a culture where the benefits of recycling are understood and the specific ways to recycle are clear.”

The key word Flower uses is “culture.” Businesses need to have a culture that focuses on sustainability if they want recycling to become a priority. Unfortunately, far too many businesses are looking at sustainability as an afterthought.

4 of the Most Common Mistakes

So, what mistakes are businesses making? Well, it’s hard to generalize things, but it’s clear that the following mistakes are most common:

  1. Not Recycling Appliances

It’s imperative that businesses recycle heavy equipment and machinery, such as office appliances and devices. Unfortunately, most businesses simply pay for them to be taken away and tossed in a dump or landfill.

The smart solution is to donate old working appliances to local organizations that can use them, or take them to thrift shops and stores that sell secondhand goods. If the appliances are irreparable, finding a recycling center that properly strips and salvages parts is ideal. Then you can purchase more efficient appliances that will last for years to come.

  1. Improperly Sorting Trash

It’s amazing how many offices around the country don’t properly sort trash and set up recycling bins. While it may seem like a small thing to throw a single plastic bottle into the trashcan, these small choices compound over the days, weeks, and years.

On average, 90 percent of office waste in the workplace can be recycled. The good news for businesses looking to start recycling initiatives at work is that there are plenty of resources available. It’s also possible, depending on the industry the business operates in, that there could be financial incentives and kickbacks for adopting sustainable practices.

  1. Not Sorting Shredded Paper

Shredding office paper and business documents is great for recycling, but businesses need to separate the shredded paper from other materials. Labeling the bag “shredded papers” will almost always be adequate or the local recycling facility. However, if papers are shredded and not separated, this actually gives the facilities more work to do.

  1. Not Investing in Sustainable Packaging

Perhaps the biggest problem areas for businesses – at least when it comes to sustainability – is their inability and unwillingness to develop eco-friendly packaging. According to Mark Dancy, president of a waste reduction company, companies have their priorities out of whack. They often focus on, “How will this drive consumers to my product and how much does this cost.” Environmental sustainability comes in a distant third, showing that it’s a less important concern for businesses.

The worst packaging blunders go to chip bags, single serving products (such as yogurt cups), toothpaste tubes, and many plastic bottles. As the ecommerce industry grows, it’s also troubling to see products shipped in a second box…and sometimes even a third one.

It’s critically important that businesses identify their packaging shortcomings and look for ways to become more sustainable. Recycling should be a priority, not an afterthought.

Make Smart Recycling a Priority

Smart recycling habits have to become a priority for modern businesses. It all starts with developing a culture that respects sustainability and expands from there. As a business, you should start by examining your own situation. Are you making any of the mistakes referenced here? It may be time to reevaluate your processes, and make recycling a priority.