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Going green Featured

7:00pm EDT November 25, 2008

Starting a recycling program could be easier than you think.

Jim Dietz, co-owner and president of Lake Erie Graphics Inc., says that CEOs may be surprised at how simple it is to get the ball rolling on a program to collect plastic, paper and aluminum cans for recycling at your company — and that it can benefit your company financially. 

Dietz’s company, a 35-employee commercial printer located in Brook Park, has implemented numerous green initiatives, including picking up its customers’ paper recycling as an added, free service. He says the first step to starting an office program is to make it easy for your employees to recycle by allowing them to keep containers in their cubes and by placing a larger collection container in an easy-to-reach spot.

“Instead of walking to the trash can to throw it away, you put the recycling bin right next to it so they drop it in there,” he says. “I don’t know how much easier it could get.”

You can also educate employees about the impact they’re having on the environment if they’re not recycling. Both http://www.earth911.org/ and www.epa.gov/recyclecity have a wealth of information on the effects of not recycling and offer ways you can motivate your staff to take part.

“There’s a lot of material on the Internet that talks about what’s going to happen to that product if it makes it to the landfill, if it doesn’t get recycled,” he says. “I think those are things you need to educate your employees about — ‘Look, this bottle is going to last 100 years or whatever in the landfill.’ If you can display that, give them something to think about, I think that has a big impact.”

Dietz says that a problem some companies encounter is trying to find somewhere to take the recyclables.

“So, whether somebody takes it home at night, takes it to their community where they accept that or if there is [somewhere] local — you see the containers where you can drop off your waste paper and your cardboard at churches or schools,” he says.

And if you can’t find anyone at your company to handle the program — or if you want to reward a volunteer for taking charge — paying someone a little extra could go a long way.

“That’s a good incentive,” he says. “To find somebody that will take it on as a challenge, and ... you take this home, you leave an hour early. There’s a lot of ways to encourage people. It probably relates to what it is that ... motivates them. Is it $20 in their paycheck, or is it an extra hour of vacation? There’s a lot of ways you could do it to motivate someone to get involved.”

Aside from the impact you’ll have on the planet, recycling can also benefit your company financially. “The easiest thing is to look at the waste can and see what’s in there and start working on how to reduce that trash,” he says. “There’s a benefit there, too, if you reduce your Dumpster waste or the amount that you’re paying a company to haul it away. Then just try to figure out, what can we do to recycle this? Where we can take the paper?’

Maybe get the employees involved and say, ‘Hey, we’d like to do this to benefit the environment and all our kids and future.’ Then, maybe, let the employees come up with the ideas.”

Watchful eye

Now that you have a recycling program in place, you want to make sure it runs efficiently and that everyone is doing their part. With these tips from http://www.earth911.org/, you can monitor progress to evaluate cost-effectiveness, employee participation and environmental impact.

  • Provide feedback to employees. By providing feedback, you can share successes, progress and problems with your company’s program.
  • Use memos, newsletters or companywide e-mails to distribute updates or milestones about the program.
  • Publicize the quantity your company recycles.
  • Calculate/distribute disposal cost savings based on the decrease of office waste.
  • Survey employees/departments to identify program problems and improvements.
  • Post informative articles on recycling, source reduction, reuse and/or the environment to further educate staff.
  • Include information on recycling program participation in new employee orientation and the company handbook.

You can also show how successful and creative your program is by promoting your company’s efforts outside of your business.

  • Apply for various local, state or federal awards, such as the Paper Recycling Awards.
  • Become an EPA WasteWise business to further improve your program.
  • Get involved in local, state and/or national recycling, environmental or industry-related organizations.
  • Distribute press releases on your program to local newspapers.

HOW TO REACH: Lake Erie Graphics Inc., (216) 265-7575 or http://www.lakeeriegraphics.com/