Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from The Green Reprographics Handbook, a book published in 2008 and distributed to IRgA members to help them focus on "green" issues. The book is six years old but the information below is still worthwhile. There are still some copies of the book available for IRgA members; if you’d like a copy, send an email to Ed Avis at firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here to read an excerpt about starting a green program at your shop, and click here to read an excerpt about using paper with recycled content.
Chapter 11: Recycling Programs
An essential element of any green repro plan is a recycling program. Recycling your scrap paper is the most logical aspect of a recycling program, but don’t overlook the benefits of recycling other things, such as electronics.
A paper recycling program – like any part of your green program – has to start with a commitment from your staff. It’s just as easy, and often easier, to pitch all the paper into the dumpster than to sort out the recyclable stuff. You’ll need your frontline people to put the recyclable paper into the proper receptacles, or your plan isn’t going to work.
Getting compliance from your employees involves two steps: 1) Convince them that it’s important, and 2) Make it easy for them to do.
Convincing your employees that recycling is important may just involve providing some facts, such as these:
* Recycling a ton of paper saves 17 trees. Recycling half the world’s paper would free 20 million acres of forestland.
* Recycling that same ton of paper keeps 60 pounds of pollutants out of the atmosphere (and, of course, a ton of paper out of the landfill).
* Recycling CAN earn your business money. Depending on where your shop is located, certain businesses buy scrap paper. It’s a commodity.
But probably more important than facts is convenience. Provide receptacles for waste paper near every copier, plotter, and desk in your shop. Make them big enough that the operator won’t have to empty it more than once a day. If you use a cleaning service, make sure they know what to do with that paper. If you don’t use a cleaning service, make sure someone is responsible for emptying the receptacles daily. You don’t want employees pitching good clean paper because the recycling bin is too full.
Now, what do you do with all that paper? Your first call should be to your waste hauler, as most have recycling programs in place. Depending on your location and the quantity of paper you have, your paper recycling program will either cost you money; be free; or earn you money. It all depends on the market for paper in your community and how much you can provide. Even if the program costs you money, however, remember that recycling your paper is an essential part of being green. No one is going to buy your green pitch if they see your trash cans full of scrap paper!
A modern repro shop is loaded with electronics, and every year some of it becomes obsolete and needs to be disposed of. If you leased the equipment, or if the manufacturer has a program to take back and refurbish used equipment, no problem. But if you have to dispose of it yourself, what do you do? If you throw it in a landfill, and it leaches toxic chemicals – electronics are loaded with heavy metals – you could be liable somewhere down the line. A smarter move is to either donate the equipment to some organization that can use it, or recycle it. Some municipalities have electronics recycling programs. If yours doesn’t, find a company that specialized in electronics recycling and let them handle the waste for you. Three good web resources for locating electronics recycling centers are the National Center for Electronics Recycling (www.elctronicsrecycling.com), Electronics Industry Alliance (www.eiae.org), and Earth 911 (earth911.org/electronics).
Help Your Clients Recycle
Now the cool part. Once you’ve established an effective recycling program, don’t hide it! Open it up to your clients. Take the hassle off their hands, and they’ll be grateful. And if you’re making money off your paper recycling, you’ll make more if you’re handling the waste of a dozen other businesses.
One new shop in Texas was looking for a way to distinguish itself from its competitors and decided a client recycling program was the perfect idea. Now delivery drivers for that shop pick up recyclable old prints from customers whenever they’re making a delivery, and bring them back to the shop. The paper gets mixed in with the shop’s own recyclables, and once a week it’s all carted to a recycling center. The clients love the service, and the owner is sure it has helped business.
Click here to read an excerpt about starting a green program at your shop, and click here to read an excerpt about using paper with recycled content.