Thanks to our training in the Cuyahoga County Master Recycling program we have begun an all-out war on waste, our first enemy: paper.
Paper waste is a huge issue in American businesses. Just think about how often paper is a factor in your workday (especially my fellow office dwellers). There is mail going out, mail coming in (most of it junk), copies to be made, old files to trash, confidential information to shred, checks to be written, checks to be cashed, shipments are going out in cardboard boxes, and more are coming in. There are statements to be sent and invoices galore.
All of this adds up to the equivalent of every person on earth using two pieces of paper every hour of every day. It is an endless shuffling that all ends in one place: landfills.
Our goal is to shift that waste to recycling centers instead. Recycled paper is a valuable commodity that has created an entirely new industry. Also, for every ton of paper recycled 2.3 cubic meters of landfill space is freed. There are other benefits as well: each ton recycled saves 17 trees, 380 gallons of oil, 7000 gallons of water, and 4000 kilowatts of energy.
We had been dipping our toes into this arena over the years but, had not quite created the comprehensive plan that we now have in place. No area of our business was off limits. Each desk in our building received a convenient recycling bin for disposal of all paper products including junk mail.
Key spots such as the fax machines, the mail room, and kitchen have their very own bins adorned with directions. Unfortunately, these receptacles soon become more of a trash can as users mindlessly toss other items in them. That is a problem easily remedied with noticeable signage.
Next came our dumpsters. Paper is not necessarily an issue in these behemoths rather, cardboard is the mortal enemy. Cardboard is important to remember in a paper reduction plan as it has similar detriments and recycling only takes 75% of the energy as is required to create a virgin version.
In addition, recycling cardboard instead of tossing it in our dumpsters have added up to a decent saving in our waste disposal costs! Changing habits was easy with a simple magnet reminding users that no cardboard is allowed.
To add more value to our program, we have invested in a bailer to create neat and tidy cubes out of our cardboard. She may not be pretty but, she gets the job done. Our bailed cardboard is then picked up along with all of our paper by a local recycling agency and get this; they pay us for it. Each month we get a check. Seriously. This endeavor has taught us that the world of waste reduction often comes with benefits not only to the sustainability of our natural environment but, to our bottom line.
In addition to our new system of handling paper in-house, we are encouraging our customers to participate by electing to receive an electronic bill. We have done this with incentives for our representatives as well as fun contests for our customers.
The battle is hardly over but, I would say we are winning. Just as with any good plan, management for the long haul is essential, and that is precisely what we intend to do!