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Fun Ways to Get Employees to Recycle at Work

by Scott Shpak

Depending on the people and pace in your office, recycling programs can be a rallying point, a chore, or a mix of both. Keeping recycling fun will keep it an active part of the office routine, but it can be challenging to stay fresh. Employee involvement is everything, for it's their split-second decision that determines the destination of waste.


Keep It Simple

Whatever initiatives you try, starting small is the key to your first success. Make it clear to your employees that you're going to have a recycling project and what items will apply. Obvious recycling targets include paper, of which the typical office generates a couple pounds a day, and beverage containers. You can reinforce the project and what items are covered through use of posters and emails. You may use a different color or text font so employees recognize immediately that this is not just another office note. You can start by having clearly labeled and easy-to-use recycling bins. No matter what project or competition you conduct, be sure your office can accommodate the switch from waste to recyclables.


Inspire Competition

A bit of good-natured us-against-them can motivate employees to participate, particularly when there's something at stake. Try creating teams by department or building section, whatever is logical for your office. Prizes don't need to be extravagant, and sometimes you may skip the prize in favor of something meaningful to your workers. Harvard University rewards its intra-office recycling winners with something any Ivy Leaguer would value – a top letter grade.


Games for Awareness

While an interoffice competition that redirects waste from trash to recycling may be productive, the fun may be concentrated on a designated awards day. Events that educate don't need to directly produce recycling results. For example, a company attempting to improve sorting may set up a free-throw contest, but one that uses the company's sorting bins. Paper balls are aimed at a blue bin, plastic bottles to green and aluminum cans are tossed into a yellow container. Points are awarded for correct sorting as well as "baskets."


Aiming for Results

Events that really make a difference can be dry, such as when recycled-to-waste ratios are calculated. describes the one-bag challenge that a company used to encourage reduced workplace garbage. Waste targets were set at one garbage bag per week per floor, with the rest recycled or composted. When everyone in a department can see amounts of waste piling up, both creativity and a sense of competition are likely to kick in. 


References & Resources

About the Author

Scott Shpak has over 20 years of experience as an operations manager in business, manufacturing and office settings, where he primarily oversaw health and safety procedures and human resources management. His work appears on top publications including Global Post.

Photo Credits

ms_seal/iStock/Getty Images

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