Recycling: Keep Your Profits Out of the Dumpster

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Author: Fran Berman
Date: July 2000
From: Journal of Property Management(Vol. 65, Issue 4)
Publisher: Institute of Real Estate Management
Document Type: Article
Length: 2,175 words

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Your waste reduction plan has been in place for two months. Colored recycle bins are at every desk, tenants have been educated on the proper procedures, and bright posters remind them what is and is nor acceptable. Yet your janitorial staff reports that trash is in the recyclables on a regular basis. How do you get everyone to follow the plan?

Most people are generally in favor of recycling, but to get them to focus on making even that small extra effort, you have to tune into WIIFM--"what's in it for me?" To get the program out of the dumpster and tenants on the recycling fast track, try out some simple actions that produced impressive results from some U.S. companies.

A ten-year waste reduction campaign at Lucent Technologies' Dallas plant reduced paper consumption 73 percent by 1995. And with much lower printing demands, they bought standard laser printers to replace expensive, leased high-speed printers, further decreasing costs. In 1994, Lucent's 2,500 employees received theme mugs and stopped using polystyrene cups, saving the company $15,000 the first year alone. And waste hauls decreased by 80 percent from 1991 to 1994.

In its seven Manhattan office locations, Merrill Lynch increased its bottom line $1.9 million over five years by reducing hauling fees and being reimbursed for its recyclable paper. That's an average of $198 for each of its 10,000 Manhattan employees. Multiply the number of people working in your building by $198 for your potential savings when you follow Merrill Lynch's example.

If you have food service in your facility, consider that McDonald's restaurants around the country reduced their waste hauls an average of 33 percent simply by recycling cardboard. Meat suppliers take back reusable plastic shipping boxes with each delivery, further reducing waste hauls.

AT&T cafeterias have contributed thousands of dollars in aluminum can reimbursement money to local charities and communities while keeping those cans out of the dumpsters and cutting the number of hauls.

To reduce the deluge of junk mail, tenants' employees can write to the Direct Marketing Association and ask to be dropped from mailing lists that are bought and sold.

Reduce the blizzard of magazines and trade journals by having two people share a single publication, or cancel altogether those that pile up unread issue after issue. Cancellations will save mail handling costs, employee time, and stress while you save operational costs.

Tenant Participation

Your waste hauls will be smaller and your recycling loads bigger when you get everyone to comply willingly. Most people will go along with you if you make the procedures relatively painless. At its New Jersey facility, AT&T gave each employee two under-the-desk trash bins: one for mixed paper, one for trash. Recycled paper volume increased 1,000 percent over 10 years by making paper recycling easy and seamless. (See chart below.)

To further encourage compliance, the janitorial staff left a pre-printed note on recyclables contaminated with trash restating the company's waste reduction policy. If someone had to make a special trip to empty...

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