Waste Reduction Strategies
Before you start your waste reduction program, visit
SustainableBusiness.com for information on affecting environmental
change in your company and more.
These tips apply to most business types, especially offices and
- Establish purchasing guidelines to encourage waste prevention
(durable, concentrated, reusable, high quality).
- Centralize purchasing to eliminate unnecessary purchases and ensure
that waste reduction purchasing policies are followed.
- Track material usage to optimize ordering.
- Consider length of warranty and availability of repair services when
purchasing equipment. (Contract for maintenance to extend the life
- Substitute less toxic materials for toxic materials (e.g.,
vegetable-based inks, water-based glue, markers and paints).
- Use plastic trash can liners made of recycled HDPE instead of ones
made with LDPE or LLDPE. They contain less raw materials, work
equally well for most uses, and generally cost less.
- Order merchandise with minimal packaging or layers of packaging.
Contact manufacturers directly and express purchase preferences.
Remember to vote with your dollars by buying products with minimal
packaging or packaging containing recycled content.
- Avoid bright or deep toned paper.
- "Astrobrights" and other brightly colored papers can cause problems
at paper recycling mills. Pastel colors (light green, light blue,
canary yellow, light pink) are less of a problem and stand out just
as well. And, they cost less!
- Request that deliveries be shipped in returnable containers.
- Order supplies by voice mail or electronic mail.
- Use optical scanners, which give more details about inventory,
allowing more precise ordering.
- Start your own Recycled-Content Purchasing Program, visit "The Buy
Recycled Business Alliance" web site.
- Eliminate unneeded packaging or layers of packaging.
- Use lightweight packaging to conserve materials. See Hewlett
Packard's site on Packaging Guidelines.
- Use reusable boxes and mailbags for shipping to branch offices,
shops, and warehouses.
- Ship products to your customers in the boxes that you receive from
your suppliers. Set up a place to store these reusable boxes. Ask
customers to return boxes for reuse. You will save by not having to
buy as many new boxes.
- Encourage suppliers to use reusable totes or boxes, rather than
sending you disposable boxes that you have to break down and
- Print a message on products to encourage consumers to recycle the
- Reuse packing materials (e.g., foam peanuts, bubble-wrap and
cardboard boxes) or find someone who can.
- Use materials already on hand for loose-fill packaging material,
rather than buying new. One popular, low-cost option is shredded
- Set up a system for returning cardboard boxes and foam peanuts to
distributors for reuse.
- Return, reuse and repair wooden pallets and spools and use a clamp
system instead of new pallets for outgoing shipments.
- Purchase supplies with recycled content.
- Follow this link for additional resources and ideas for packaging waste
- Writing/Printing Paper
- Make double-sided copies whenever possible. Go to Cutting Paper Use.
- Reuse envelopes and use two-way envelopes.
- Circulate memos, periodicals and reports, rather than distributing
- Use voice or electronic mail, shared computer drives, or post memos
on a central bulletin board.
- Make scratch pads from used paper.
- Use outdated letterhead for in-house memos.
- Eliminate unnecessary forms. Double-side forms or redesign them to
fit on a half sheet.
- Use narrow-ruled notebooks.
- Save documents on floppy disks instead of printing hard copies.
- Use central files for hard copies.
- Print more words on each page (e.g., smaller font, narrow margins).
- "Duplex" your laser printer so that it automatically prints
documents on both sides of the page. Installing the duplex option
typically costs around $300, but makes good sense in larger offices
that use and/or mail a lot of paper.
- Proof documents on screen when possible and teach employees to use
print preview and spell check before printing.
- Fill the printer with paper already used on one side and print
drafts on the other side. (Set this as the default print and
instruct employees to use the manual feed to use clean paper.
- Use same draft of report for corrections by several people.
- Accept final in-house documents with hand corrections.
- Use executive summaries when possible and provide the entire
document only upon request.
- Read about the importance of reducing paper waste in the BBC News
article "Half Paper Waste Could Be Saved".
- Overstocked/Surplus Items
- Set up an area/swap program for employees to exchange used items.
- Get rid of unwanted items, but remember another business might be
able to use them! Advertise surplus and reusable waste items through
a commercial waste exchange.
- Rent instead of buying equipment that is used only occasionally.
- Use quality used or remanufactured office equipment.
- Invest in equipment that facilitates waste prevention such as:
- high quality, durable, repairable equipment;
- copiers and printers
that make two-sided copies;
- modem cards;
- Institute maintenance practices that prolong the life of copiers,
computers, and other equipment.
- Reclaim reusable parts from old equipment.
- Use refilled or rebuilt fax and printer cartridges and other office
supplies like pens, etc.
- Sell or give old furniture and equipment to employees or donate it
to a local charity.
- Use retreaded tires on company vehicles. Rotate tires on a regular
basis to prolong tire life. Keep tires properly inflated, this saves
energy and improves wear.
- Install reusable heating, ventilation and air conditioning filters.
- Replace incandescent with fluorescent lights.
- Purchase products that do not need batteries or do use solar energy
such as manual pencil sharpeners, staplers and solar calculators.
- Use rechargeable batteries where practical.
- Use hand blowers or cloth towel dispensers in bathrooms, or purchase
recycled and unbleached paper towel rolls.
- Get off unwanted mailing lists! Use the National Waste Prevention
Coalition's website to get your name off national mailing lists and
save your business money.
- Use recycled-content items related to intra and inter-office
communications: cork boards, paper, pencils, pens, etc.
- Confused about what recycled-content and other recycling lingo
means? Go to "The Language of Recycling" web site.
- Use fax "stickies" instead of full page cover sheets, or even better
write or stamp the first page of the fax to convey transmission
- Invest in a program that allows faxing directly from your computer
or send documents by email instead of printing a copy to fax.
- Use two way or reusable envelopes when appropriate.
- Eliminate unnecessary elements such as envelopes by designing your
mailing so the address can be printed right on the document you are
- Reuse old envelopes for internal mailings.
- Keep mailing lists current to avoid duplication or mailing to
- Don't pre-stuff packets for meetings or conferences. Let
participants take the handouts they think they will use.
- Use email and voice mail for interoffice messages.
- Route magazines and other subscriptions rather than ordering copies
for individual employees.
- Donate old magazines or journals to hospitals, clinics, or
- Keep mailing lists current/one copy per address.
- Call or mail postcards directly to senders asking that your name be
removed from mailing lists.
- "Outside" your Business
- Go to Landscaping Tips.
- See also: Oregon Compost Facilities
- Food and Personal Services
- Purchase less toxic cleaners. See Green Seal's "Choose Green
- Dispense cleaning solutions in refillable containers like pump spray
bottles. Use products in non-aerosol containers where possible.
- Use durable towels, tablecloths, napkins, dishes, flatware, cups and
- Encourage employees to bring their own mugs and utensils. Ask food
vendor to offer discounts on beverages served in a customer's own
- Buy company mugs; stop providing disposable cups.
- Buy reusable coffee filters or unbleached disposable filters.
- Reuse trash can liners or eliminate where possible and discontinue
use in cans with dry trash only.
- Consider using cloth roll towels, hot air dryers, large paper rolls
in restrooms, or buy lighter/smaller-sized paper towels.
- Consumer Choices
- Teach your customers about the importance of waste prevention.
Effective tools for getting the message across include: promotional
campaigns; brochures and newsletters (remember to use recycled
paper); banners; newspaper ads; product displays and store signs.
- Encourage customers to bring their own bag(s) and compliment them
when they do.
- Offer customers a rebate when they reuse grocery bags, containers,
mugs and cups.
- Offer customers waste prevention choices such as:
- items in bulk or concentrate;
- items in refillable bottles;
- solar-powered items, such as calculators, flashlights; and
- durable and repairable merchandise.
- If you serve beverages in cans or bottles, place a recycling bin in
the dining area for your customers' empty beverage containers.
- Encourage customers to return reusable items (e.g., metal hangers to
dry cleaners, styrofoam peanuts, plastic wrap, bags, etc.).
- Go to Sustainable Development International Corporation's "Smart Office" for more information on recycling,
buying recycled and more!
- Join the Business Recycling Awards Group (BRAG).
Get some recognition for your efforts to prevent waste and recycle.
Call Metro Recycling Information, 503-234-3000, for an application.
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