Waste Reduction & Recycling

Basic Steps Involved in Setting up a Recycling Program

Get Leadership Support

An EPA study on the most effective solid waste management techniques found that people and persistence make the difference. Programs that have both peer and constant managerial support tend to be stronger and more effective programs. It is important to ensure that your recycling program is supported from the top. To do this, ask leaders to put out and/or visibly support memoranda introducing the recycling program. Discussing the recycling program at leadership meetings is another tool that can be used to demonstrate support for the recycling program.

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Select a Recycling Coordinator

The Recycling Coordinator needs to be enthusiastic about recycling, and have good organizational and communication skills.  They should also be familiar with, or have the time to become familiar with, current waste management practices at the facility.

This person is responsible for some or all of the following:

    • Design the collection program
    • Select a hauler or arranging in-house transportation of materials
    • Facilitate education and outreach
    • Track progress.
    • Address questions and concerns from venue managers, concessionaires, staff, and the public.
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Determine Current Waste Management Practices

  • Is there currently a recycling program at your facility?  What materials does it cover and why?
  • Is trash currently hauled or dropped off?  If there is a hauler, would they be able to also haul recyclables?
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Determine the Waste Stream

Waste Assessment »

The kinds of questions you want to answer with a waste assessment are:

  1. Who generates the solid waste?
  2. Where is the solid waste being generated?
  3. Types of solid waste are being generated?

To help calculate the types of solid wastes being generated, you can use volume-to-weight conversion charts, several examples of which are given below:

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Practice Waste Prevention – Reduce, Reuse, Donate

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Include Concessionaires, Staff, and Volunteers

To make the program successful, it will be helpful to have the support of concessionaires, staff and volunteers.

For ideas about how to include:

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Select a Contractor/Hauler »

How to find a Hauler

Decide if you will contract out or haul recyclables using in-house staff.
If you decide you want to haul recyclables, the following are some ideas on how to find a local recycling company:

  • Check with current trash hauler to see if they also offer recycling pick-up
  • Contact your local government solid waste department or local businesses for referrals
  • Check telephone directories to find local recycling companies
  • Check Earth 911 as an online resource

Single Stream Collection vs. Separated Contents (Multi-Stream) Collection

You might have a choice between single stream and multi-stream collection of recyclables.  The two methods are briefly compared below.

  • Benefits of Single Stream Collection
    • Is convenient which has been proven to increase participation rates
    • Makes it easy to add new materials to the collection system
    • Increases the amount of recyclables collected
    • Reduces the number of collection trucks needed
  • Benefits of Sorted Stream Collection
    • Lower levels of contamination at the source
    • Higher quality and more valuable recovered material
    • Lower costs to process the recovered paper

Reference: EPA. Paper Grades and Collection.

Note:  Whether your facility will use singles-stream or separated contents recycling will largely depend on your local recycling facility.


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Set up the Collection Program »


    It is recommended to have recycling bins next to every trash bin in major common areas and entrances.  This sends the message the building and agency is serious, and also helps prevents recyclables from going into the trash bin and trash from going into the recycling bin.

Collection Bins and Liners

    To avoid confusion, the recycling bins should look different from trash cans and be easy to identify. Consider purchasing recycled content bins and liners.

Storage and Pickup

For GSA Operated Buildings »

    “GSA will help other federal agencies set-up recycling programs in buildings they operate addressing not only the traditional office waste stream, but also include other related programs that direct employees on the proper disposal of newspaper, glass, beverage containers, phone books, carpet squares and even grass clippings.”

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Facilitate Outreach and Education

Let people know:

    • WHY they should recycle.
    • WHAT they should recycle.
    • WHERE they can recycle.
    • HOW they can recycle

EPA Recommendations for Education and Outreach:

    • Keep it Simple: Make the messages and directions clear, understandable, and concise.
    • Say it Right: Make sure program information is available in a multi-lingual format, as necessary, to ensure all citizens are informed.
    • Make it Obvious: Clearly label collection bins and advertise drop-off sites.
    • Spell it Out: Explain the reasons why recycling is important and the impact it makes on our environment.
    • Keep it Going: Give frequent updates on how much the program is progressing and how the effort is making a difference.
    • Make it Count: Set goals and publicly chart progress, with an incentive for reaching the goals.
    • Shout it Out: Get local media involved and publicize the program.

For more information and access to outreach materials, refer to Educational Tools.

Reference: EPA. Setting up a Recycling Program Details.

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Monitor and Evaluate the Recycling Program »

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Additional Information »


U.S. Department of the Interior

Greening of the Interior