Today’s companies know they aren’t just working for the present. They are investing in the future. With climate change and the other serious issues related to the environment, responsible companies are taking the initiative to be greener and promote sustainability efforts.

Research, however, shows that small and medium sized business in Canada have quite a way to go, particularly in the commercial sector. According to the Recycling Council of Ontario, recycling industry experts estimate that more than 80 per cent of the waste produced by small- and medium-sized businesses goes straight into landfills.

There’s no better place to start than with the waste being generated in your facility. Every day, employees are bringing in items such as pop cans and paper coffee cups that are ending up in your trash can. Isn’t it time to set up a successful recycling program, or give your existing recycling program an overhaul to make it more effective?

Here are the steps to set up a recycling program at your commercial facility. We’ll look first at setting goals, and then, some practical steps to setting up your recycling program for success.

Coffee cups in trash bin

Ask your facilities maintenance partner about waste audits

Don’t guess at what’s going into your waste containers or how much. Companies that provide commercial cleaning and facilities maintenance services should be able to conduct waste audits for you. This makes it possible to benchmark the volume and type of waste generated in your facility.

Once you’ve seen the audit results, set up some specific waste reduction goals, i.e. increase diversion from landfill by 15% or even 25%. You can determine your diversion rate by the following equation:

Once the program is launched, talk to your facilities maintenance service provider about scheduling regular waste audits to ensure the program is working or if it needs adjustment. A specific goal builds enthusiasm for the project, especially once you’ve achieved some positive results!

Preparing for a commercial recycling program

Build ownership! It’s a good idea to involve your facilities maintenance team in the design of the program so they are aware of the new recycling and waste management program and the goals. They are going to be integral to the program’s success by helping to ensure everything is being collected and separated effectively.

Consider setting up an internal “green team” to help promote the program. These become the “influencers” or champions who help publicize what needs to be done within the specific units of an organization and keep up enthusiasm for the effort.

Know what kind of waste you are collecting and why: Depending on the kind of waste generated (as documented by a waste audit), identify what can be collected for recycling and/or recovery. This is going to vary by region and municipality depending on the materials recovery facilities in the area.

In addition, find out from your waste hauler what can materials be mixed with what (e.g. cans and paper? Or keep separate?), and the condition of the waste (paper has to be dry; cans have to be clean, etc.) These kinds of details prevent contamination and can make a big difference in the success of the program.

Pick the right waste and recycling bins and put them in the right places! When selecting bins, use ones suitable to the waste you want to collect and the right volume. Your facilities maintenance partner should be able to help with this. There may also be standard colours for your region, so check with your waste hauler or local municipality. Note: Neither Canada or the USA have national standards.

Bin placement and labeling are two of the most important components of a successful program. You have to make it easy for people! Put bins in areas where traffic flow is heavy and where the waste is generated e.g. meeting rooms, hallways, loading docks, kitchens and cafeterias.

Put pictures on the bins that show “what goes where” so people know exactly what to do. List actual items if you have specific waste “culprits”. Some items are tricky, like coffee cups with paper sleeves and plastic lids, or paper towels. You may want to post special reminders about these items, and where they go in the bins.

Tips for recycling program success at a commercial facility

In addition to the above recycling program “how to do’s”, here are some general tips for recycling success.

  • Set realistic goals. It’s better to achieve a goal that shows progress than fall short of a goal. Check with your waste hauler and facilities maintenance partner for advice.
  • Don’t overwhelm with instructions. Telling people, here are 25 things that you need to recycle is overwhelming. Instead, pick the top 5-10.
  • Focus on “low hanging fruit”. These are the easy gains and vary, depending on your facility and the kind of waste produced, e.g. if you deal with a lot of corrugated paper, report back on how many bales were diverted from landfill to recycling. The same goes for electronic parts, or plastic bottles —whatever is going to make a big, initial impact.
  • Stress the need for “clean recycling”. Contamination is one of the biggest issues in recycling today. Educate staff and employees that a plastic container marked for recycling is only good if it is clean—one lump of yogurt at the bottom of a container can mess up the entire batch of plastic designated for recycling.
  • Encourage participation. Everyone is on board these days with the benefits of recycling. Get creative with your program. Make it fun. Hold contests and games. Give prizes for the departments that divert the most!

Partner with a company that shares your sustainability goals

Commercial facilities looking for an effective recycling program don’t have to set it up on their own. In addition to commercial cleaning, facilities maintenance services such as Kleenway are equipped to help you set up and maintain a successful recycling program. This includes conducting waste audits, setting realistic goals, assisting with waste container selection, and other services to help make your recycling program a success and support your sustainability goals.



For more than 35 years Kleenway has been providing superior and trusted commercial cleaning and facility maintenance services that support your sustainability goals. Contact us for a quote today.