How to Start a Recycling Program

There are a few key elements to starting any recycling program for a business, a school, an organization or just in your home:

1. Decide what to recycle

Evaluate how much space you have to sort and store materials and what items you tend to go through. Paper products are a safe bet to be recycled, and aluminum or steel cans are valuable. Other commonly accepted items include glass and plastic bottles.

2. Find a vendor

Check with your local recycling center, municipality and waste hauler to find out what kind of materials are accepted in your area. The green Earth911 recycling locater can help.

3. Decide on storage

Washable plastic bins or trash cans are best and cardboard boxes are good too. Be sure to rinse out the containers that held food, or you may have a problem with critters. The bins you choose may depend on the conditions where they will be placed – if there’s a risk of rain of flood waters, then cardboard may not be the best idea.

4. Educate participants

If items are put in the wrong containers, it means more work for you and could mean materials might not be recycled. Let the people know what to do and explain why those steps are important to reinforce the message.

5. Label bins

Print up a sheet of special instructions, such as: remove caps, stomp on containers, break down cardboard boxes, bundle newspapers, etc.

6. Maintain and monitor

Keep the storage bins clean and dry and make sure materials don’t pile up. A clean recycling area encourages others to keep it clean and uncluttered. Watch for critters from unwashed containers.

7. Reward good behavior

Praise your participants and share any monetary rewards from dropping off materials. If you keep a log of how accomplishments (ie; “100 trees saved” or “$125.31 earned towards our new park bench”) that encourages everyone to stick with the program.

Courtesy of

Here’s a great video that describes in general which types of items will be recyclable at your workplace or school.

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