There are millions of different jobs in our country, which means that targeting this post to the specific kinds of trash you generate in your workplace would be nearly impossible. That said, you can use many of the techniques discussed in earlier articles to customize your approach to workplace trash reduction.
Specifically you will start with another waste audit, but this time you’ll be looking in your workplace trash can. I find that work-related trash comes in two categories—general office supply trash (paper, paper clips, used-up pens, and so on) and occupational supplies (items specific to the job at hand).
To start your workplace waste audit, sort your results into those two categories. Go through your items systematically and see what you can reduce, reuse, recycle, or compost. Start by replacing garbage-generating items with the solutions you have already instituted at home. Chances are, you’ll be left with a small list of workplace garbage conundrums, and that’s where this chapter comes in.
Offices are loaded with the essential tools of the trade: ream upon ream of paper, pens and pencils, highlighters, staplers, paper clips, and many more. Copy machines run through toner cartridges almost as fast as they spit out paper. Just the day-to-day operations of a business or office create a respectable amount of trash that can be easily reduced.
The amount of paper used in the United States is astronomical—seventy-one million tons, according to the EPA. Of this, about forty-five million tons were recycled in 2010, meaning that we recycle just over 60 percent of the paper we use. Obviously, American workplaces are responsible for a large amount of paper used.
Paper is a valuable resource, and it will save money and the environment if you’re able to cut down on your consumption. Luckily there are lots of easy ways to reduce your paper consumption at work. You can save it and use it as a scratch paper or cut it into pieces for messages.
Single-sided papers can be used to print and send faxes because no one ever sees the previously used side. Only after you’ve used both sides should you recycle it.
Next, stop printing emails and other digital files. If at all possible, keep electronic copies of everything you can. Encourage others to do the same by saving a message under your email signature that reads, “Please think about the environment before printing this email.”
If you must print emails, make sure you do so on paper that’s already been used on one side.
An estimated 1.5 billion ballpoint pens wind up in landfills each year— that’s a lot of waste. Yet pens are a necessary tool. Your best bet is to invest in a nice pen or two with refillable ink cartridges. If you need to buy non-refillable ballpoint pens, invest in new ones made from recycled plastic.
Many office tasks don’t actually require that you use a pen—in fact, the only time a pen is really necessary is when you’re signing a document. Other times, consider using a refillable mechanical pencil, an old-fashioned wooden pencil, or colored pencils.
Paper clips and staples are, of course, both made from metal, which is a valuable and recyclable resource. The problem is, both of these items are too small to put into a regular recycling bin. In large quantities, however, they can be recycled at a scrap metal facility.
Toner cartridges from copy machines and ink cartridges from printers are always recyclable. Manufacturers usually make this easy: all you have to do is package the cartridge back up in its original packaging, attach the supplied return label, and plunk it in the mail. Shipping is usually covered, too. Cartridges are returned to the manufacturer, where they are inspected for errors or flaws, then refilled with ink, resealed, and reused.
Here are some ways to avoid workplace free time parties:
- Use your to-go kit: a reusable plate, reusable silverware, a mug, and a cloth napkin.
- Bring your own water bottle to avoid the paper cups at the water cooler.
- Stop buying from vending machines—pure trash and junk food.
- Buy beverages in recyclable containers.
- Stop raiding the candy dish—wrappers are usually garbage.
- Stock your own candy dish with loose bulk candy
Replace Disposables with Reusables – There’s no denying the fact that disposables are convenient, but if you look hard enough, you’ll often find there’s a reusable product that can take its place.