Educating employees on your recycling program is imperative to success. While most employees probably have a sense that recycling is “a good thing to do,” your employees will not know what materials can and cannot be recycled at work unless they are educated on the issue. Additionally, most won’t understand the wide range of environmental and economic benefits of recycling. Developing an understanding of the impacts of your recycling program will help cultivate a workplace culture that values your recycling program. Taking time to educate your employees is a very important step in ensuring the long-term success of your program.
If you are kicking off your program, you’ll want to make sure an announcement or kick-off event is created to build awareness and excitement for the new program. If you have the support of the executive leadership of your company, try and get them involved in the process. Having their involvement and presence can be important to improve attendance at an event or to pay attention to an announcement of the program.
Types of notices or events that can be used:
- Newsletter or memo from leadership announcing the program and why it’s important.
- Tabling kickoff event where staff can learn about the program at their leisure and ask questions.
- Video highlighting the program and how to use it.
- Position volunteers at your recycling stations helping build awareness and helping employees use the program correctly.
- Speaker or presenter – contact SWACO, we may be able to provide a speaker for you event!
When you begin to educate your staff, you will want to focus on emphasizing what materials are accepted and what is not. Make sure to communicate where they can find containers, familiarize them with the signage, and discuss any other protocols such as not bagging recyclables (an almost universal requirement of service providers). Make sure they know who to reach out to if they have questions or if they notice contamination or service-related issues. If you conducted a waste audit you may want to share those findings with your staff to help them gain insight into your organization’s waste stream and any goals for the program that you would like to achieve. Setting the correct expectations for this program is essential for all staff members, from the enthusiastic recyclers to those that are more apathetic.
Not everyone in the organization will be able to turn into “super recyclers” right away. It is important to have a plan in place for continued education.
Reasons to continue educating staff
- New employees are hired.
- Your company changes to a new service provider that accepts a slightly different set of materials.
- Renovations to work areas changes the location of your recycling containers.
- People forget! Periodic reminders on the company’s recycling program and procedures are important for a successful program.
Having a designated individual or group in charge of keeping tabs on when changes to the program occur and coordinating updates to staff can be useful. Also, building recycling education into any on-boarding process can be beneficial to get new staff up to speed on what is accepted and where containers are located. There is also a benefit to having an interval-based training schedule where all staff are reminded on the program on a regular basis (quarterly, semi-annually, or annually). SWACO strongly recommends that you provide a program update/training on the program to all staff members at least once a year.
Other Education Ideas
Below are some additional ideas that you may be able to use as part of your ongoing training efforts.
- Report on your success!
- Report to all employees on the amount of material that you recycled
- Organize a “Lunch & Learn” session on recycling
- Invite a guest speaker to talk about recycling or other sustainability topics.
- Earth Day and America Recycles Day are great days to promote your program and celebrate your success!
- Earth day is celebrated each year on April 22nd.
- America Recycles Day is celebrated each year on November 15th.
SWACO has created a sample launch announcement document you can use to announce your new recycling program to your staff