Offices will generate more recyclable materials and less contamination if each employee is given a large recycling bin and small garbage can, according to a study.
The study, titled “Recycling at Work: Research to Inform Improved Recycling in the Workplace,” was commissioned by Keep America Beautiful (KAB) with support from PepsiCo Recycling and commercial real estate giant CBRE.
“It was important to do this because we see recycling in the workplace as a real potential opportunity to increase recycling,” said Brenda Pulley, KAB’s senior vice president of recycling.
Over six months in 2014, Action Research studied different recycling and garbage bin configurations in CBRE offices in Atlanta, Boston, Houston and San Diego. All offices had single-stream recycling collection.
The stakeholders tried the following configurations at each employee’s desk:
- Small trash can attached to a larger recycling bin
- Equal-sized recycling and garbage cans
- Only a recycling bin
- Making no changes to the existing configuration but providing recycling information
The first configuration, with a small garbage and large recycling bin, showed the greatest success, according to the report. It yielded a higher percentage of recyclable materials and lower percentage of garbage in recycling bins as well as a lower percentage of recyclables in garbage cans.
Before the project, 79 percent of offices had some amount of paper in garbage cans, but the number dropped to almost zero during the experiment, the report stated.
“Our research clearly shows that by combining specific-sized trash and recycling receptacles, with simple signage and messaging, businesses and other organizations can increase employee participation and improve their rate of recycling of office-generated materials,” Jennifer Jehn, KAB president and CEO, stated in a press release.
The “recycling-bin-only” option was unsuccessful and might have actually led employees to throw away recyclable materials they would have otherwise diverted, the report noted. It was unpopular for workers, and four offices dropped out of the survey after they were assigned this configuration, the report said.