According to a European Environment Agency (EEA) study, lockdown restrictions provided some short-term positive impacts on Europe’s environment. These include temporary improvements in air quality and lower greenhouse gas emissions. The UK has an ambitious target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 68% by the end of the decade, while in April, US President Joe Biden announced that America would cut its greenhouse gas emissions 50% by 2030. So with the world slowly opening up and restrictions being lifted, it’s imperative that the environment remain key in business decision making.
As offices are reopening and employees are being encouraged to come back to work in person, it’s important that employers do all they can to encourage sustainable practice in the workplace. Working from home still emits some carbon emissions from a digital carbon footprint. However, commuting, powering an office and managing business waste has a greater negative impact on the planet.
A simple way to positively impact business sustainability credentials is to keep focused on recycling. While most businesses have adopted some form of a recycling program, people are 15 times more likely to avoid recycling in the workplace than they are in their own homes. Therefore, it’s important to encourage employees to recycle by creating a strong system to support staff in their recycling efforts.
This article will explore several ways to create a community atmosphere surrounding recycling in the workspace and why it is important to make it a team effort.
1. Put your recycling station in a convenient location
By replacing individual recycling bins with centralized recycling stations, many workspaces are already positioning recycling as a team responsibility. However, it’s important to also look at the location and convenience of these centralized stations. If the general waste is closer, then staff will more than likely use this rather than the recycling bin located further away.
2. Educate employees about recycling
Confusion about what is (and isn’t) recyclable is a major cause of recycling being sent to landfill, the ocean or being incinerated. Non-recyclable materials being mixed in recycling bin contributed to more than half a million tonnes of recycling being rejected in 2019/20.
To avoid this happening, holding recycling workshops will enlighten employees about what can be recycled and emphasise the detrimental impact of not stopping and sorting recycling. Some team members may need to understand why they should recycle to enable them to embrace the initiative.
Make sure new starters know the recycling policy and regularly update staff with changes to government recycling practice.
3. Lead by example
Ensuring that employees see senior staff members and management making an effort to recycle and take part will lead to an increased sense of togetherness. Their participation is important and it sends a positive message to the rest of the workplace.
Creating a conscious community culture at work is important to current employees, but even more so to prospective ones. Share recycling commitments and targets on the company website so it is visible to current and potential employees.
4. Share sustainability goals
Make sure to communicate company recycling goals internally, too. This will give employees something to work towards. Sharing regular updates on the company’s progress will give teams a sense of achievement and encourage them to continue their good efforts.
5. Reward top recyclers
Incentivizing recycling and offering rewards to individuals or teams who are showing their support and being recycling stars. Creating a sense of healthy competition across the business could increase compliance and enthusiasm. Reporting recycling achievements for each department and showing gratitude to top performers will increase satisfaction while also boosting motivation.
6. Go paperless and digitize documents
Going paperless will reduce the amount of paper in circulation in the workplace, and in turn reduce the recycling employees have to sort and shred. Add email signatures that feature a reminder not to unnecessarily print emails and implement them company-wide and make ‘paperless’ the company policy.
When businesses rely on paper copies, it contributes to mass deforestation. Digitizing documents increases security of confidential information, and means there will be less paper recycling to navigate.
Recent improvements in the environment can be partly attributed to less travel and working from home, among other factors. It’s important that businesses now focus on setting and reaching sustainability goals to continue protecting the planet.
Encouraging staff to recycle by creating a sense of team spirit can help businesses reach these milestones. Making recycling stations convenient and accessible, educating staff through workshops and encouraging senior management to take part are all pivotal in the sustainable business journey. Setting targets, sharing updates and rewarding or incentivising where necessary will increase willingness and togetherness in colleagues.