Recycling Pilot Program Team
Reclamation's Recycling Pilot Program, Bureau of Reclamation, Colorado
Project Point of Contact
The Bureau of Reclamation, General Services Administration (GSA), and contract employees collaborated to implement a pilot recycling program in Reclamation's Denver Office, which is leased space within a GSA building. Prior to this pilot, there were only receptacles to recycle paper on each floor. The recycling pilot program addressed employee demand for accessible, single-stream recycling and increased Reclamation employee awareness of recycling opportunities within Building 67 and the Denver Federal Center (DFC). The pilot program involved providing desk-side paper recycling bins for Reclamation employees, recycling stations for mixed waste in break rooms and the hallway, and recycling stations for paper and mixed waste in each conference room. The program increased recycling by 14 percent to meet EO 13514 waste diversion goals and promoted environmentally-responsible behavior through the implementation of sustainable practices. Participants generated lessons learned and key information on employee recycling perceptions, practices, motivations, and challenges that will be incorporated into the expansion of recycling DFC-wide. This project demonstrates the positive results of collaborative efforts between federal agency tenants and GSA to achieve federal sustainability goals.
In Lakewood, Colorado, Reclamation s Denver Office resides in a 14-floor office building managed by GSA in the DFC. Reclamation is one of six tenants, and comprises of approximately 900 of the 1200 occupants. Prior to October 1, 2011, Building 67 did not have receptacles for mixed-stream recyclables. GSA provided receptacles for paper recycling on each floor and for cardboard, light bulbs, personal electronics, and batteries on the basement level. Mixed-stream recycling receptacles were provided in a few GSA buildings and in parking lots throughout DFC s large campus, but none were available in or adjacent to Building 67. As such, few employees were motivated to recycle items beyond office paper. A waste audit conducted by the GSA in December, 2010, estimated that building occupants recycled approximately 30% of waste, mostly white office paper. EO 13514 requires agencies to divert at least 50% of their waste from disposal by 2015. GSA estimated that mixed waste recycling would increase waste diversion by an additional 10-15%. Ms. Whitford, Reclamations EMS Coordinator, was approached by numerous staff on recycling. She sought out the DFC GSA lead for recycling, Ms. Buntyn, and the Building 67 GSA building manager, Mr. Thompson, about possibilities for increased recycling in Building 67. GSA was developing plans to implement mixed-waste recycling DFC-wide to meet their EO 13514 waste diversion goals, but had budget, program, and coordination challenges to address on its campus of over 20 buildings and multiple agency tenants. Ms. Whitford proposed implementing a pilot program on the 14th floor of Building 67 to accomplish a number of objectives: meet employee demand, increase waste diversion, and test best management practices and issues prior to implementing recycling building and DFC-wide.
Reclamation s Senior Sustainability Officer, Ms. Gonzales, was approached and fully supportive of the recycling pilot. She offered to fund the recycling receptacles while GSA addressed custodial recycling services. The pilot program included large, desk-side paper recycling bins for all 14th floor employees, 3 recycling stations in the break rooms and hallway, and recycling stations for paper and mixed-waste in each conference room. The pilot also included a voluntary challenge in which employees traded their trash cans in for mini-bins that they were responsible for emptying. Ms. Whitford worked closely with an intern, Ms. Zilkowski, on program development and outreach. They conducted a pre-pilot waste audit. Working with GSA and custodial staff manager, Ms. Montez, they collected and weighed trash from the 14th floor daily for a two week period. Almost 100% of the mixed waste, except paper recycled by GSA and some aluminum cans voluntarily collected by staff, was going into the trash. Trash inspection revealed that cans, plastics bottles and containers, cardboard, and paper products were being discarded. Ms. Whitford and Ms. Zilkowski developed and issued a pre-pilot recycling survey on employee recycling perceptions, practices, motivations, and challenges. After working with Ms. Buntyn to determine items accepted by DFC-wide recycling contract, they developed large recycling posters and recycling tip cheat-sheets on items that could be recycled in mixed-stream receptacles provided as part of pilot as well as other items that could be recycled elsewhere in Building 67 and the DFC. They gave training presentations on the pilot program to all offices on the 14th floor. The pilot commenced October 1, 2011 and ended December 31, 2011. During the pilot, Mr. Thompson and Ms. Montez worked with on-floor custodial staff to collect recycling items. The team coordinated a mid-pilot waste audit. Through an email tip-of-the-week, Ms. Whitford and Ms. Zilkowski provided information throughout the pilot on what could be recycled and where. The pilot concluded with a post-pilot survey.
Results and Achievements
The pilot recycling program achieved the following results (see charts submitted separately for supporting data):
- Based on the 2-week, mid-pilot waste audit, Reclamation s 14th-floor employees diverted approximately 14% of their mixed waste. Although paper recycling was provided prior to the pilot, observation revealed a significant increase in paper recycling as well. GSA building management had to empty paper recycling bins earlier than scheduled on numerous occasions.
- The number of respondents that recycle everything they can at work increased from 37% to 73%, based on comparisons of the pre- and post-pilot surveys (see page 1 of supporting documentation).
- The surveys showed that respondents increased recycling of all allowable items as a result of the pilot program. The greatest increase was in plastic containers, followed by newspaper, junk mail, and magazines. The increase in non-office paper waste was not as result of new receptacles, as they were already provided, but from increased outreach and awareness of allowable items. (see page 2 of supporting documentation).
- 62% of survey respondents volunteered for the mini-bin challenge. This eliminated custodial staff trash pickup at more than 30 cubicles and off-set costs of all additional custodial labor required to collect recyclables. Additionally, 86% of respondents that signed up for the mini-bin agreed that it made them more aware of the waste they generated and 38% agreed that they reduced their waste generation as a result of using a mini-bin (see pages 3-4 of supporting documentation).
- The survey showed that respondent s awareness was increased regarding recycling opportunities and locations not only in the pilot area, but on the entire DFC (see page 5 of supporting documentation).
- The surveys also provided key information for use in recycling expansion efforts: o 65% of respondents increased recycling because it was more accessible (see page 6 of supporting documentation).
- 38% of respondents recycle to conserve natural resources and 28% recycle to protect the natural environment (see page 7 of supporting documentation).
- The primary motivation leading to increased recycling was information on where and how to recycle (see page 8 of supporting documentation).
- 39% of respondents found the large informational posters directly over the recycling receptacles to be the most helpful form of information, while 32% found the tips-of-the-week to be the most helpful (see pages 9-10 of supporting documentation).
- The recycling pilot has increased GSA and Reclamation interaction, collaboration, and communication. Reclamation has supported GSA's progress in achieving EO 13514 goals, as required by the EO for tenants of GSA buildings. Additionally, Building 67 now has a green team with representation from the six agency tenants and is addressing sustainability issues beyond recycling, such as energy reduction.
The lessons learned from the pilot recycling program as well as the employee survey results are being shared with the Building 67 GSA Manager and Green Team, the DFC GSA lead, and other federal agencies at the Colorado Federal Executive Board Sustainability Forum. The survey, types of recycling receptacles, and outreach materials are being used as models for recycling efforts in the DFC and throughout Reclamation offices. Additionally, the implementation of increased recycling has motivated employees to seek sustainable practices beyond recycling at work and at home. Team members have been approached on ways to further reduce waste through composting, alternative transportation, powering-down electronics, and reducing paper generation.