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The U.S. EPA estimates that 40% of all our garbage is made of highly-recyclable paper and paperboard. By recycling more paper at the office, you are also reducing the amount of garbage that will have to be picked-up, driven to a facility/landfill, and processed. Garbage services are charged by the cubic yard; in addition to freeing up valuable landfill space, recycling saves money!
Most paper waste is generated from basic office duties (faxes, copies, etc.); this volume can be slimmed by changing printers & fax machines from single-sided to double-sided copy setting. A great deal of paper waste also arrives through the mail. It is always wise to recycle unwanted mail; but the Oklahoma Recycling Association (OKRA) suggests three ways to stop junk mail at the source:
1. Use both sides of a sheet of paper when possible.
2. Go paperless!
3. Re-use manila envelopes for inter-agency mailing.
4. Use agency networks or e-mail to edit & share draft documents.
5. Pack a waste-free lunch.
Recycling aluminum is a good way to not only prevent waste, but also to save energy. Aluminum does not biodegrade easily and will last for years in a landfill. By reducing the amount of garbage produced, an inter-office recycling program will assist your office in minimizing landfill contributions.
Recycling companies will compensate you for recycling aluminum; these funds provide a golden opportunity for your office’s efforts to support any number of credible charities. Setting up a recycling system for aluminum cans is a great way to show your agency’s initiative & start reducing your agency’s environmental impact!
1. Start an office recycling collection!
Recycling plastic is an important effort when attempting to reduce your impact on the environment. Most plastics are made from the man-made polymer, polyethylene, which microorganisms do not recognize as food. This inability to biodegrade poses a serious problem when, according to Earth911.com, nearly 8 out of 10 plastic bottles end up in landfills.
Plastics are sometimes incinerated to free up room at landfills; however, this process takes one problem and solves it by causing another. When plastic is burned, the chemicals used to manufacture the plastic are released into the air in the form of greenhouse gases.
1. Minimize use.
2. Reuse containers.
4. Buy Recycled!
Glass is one of the most sustainable materials available; it is 100% recyclable and recycling creates no by-products or excess waste. Recycling glass also saves energy and reduces the use of raw materials. Glass can always be recycled because it loses no quality or purity when reprocessed.
When glass is recycled, it first becomes “cullet”, or crushed glass. Cullet is made by melting down bottles and jars in a furnace which removes paper labels, glue, and other impurities. According to Earth911.com, making a new product from cullet (as opposed to virgin ingredients) uses 40% less energy. Recycling glass saves energy because cullet requires significantly less heat to melt than virgin ingredients which require temperatures around 2,600º Fahrenheit.
Recycled glass has many uses besides new glass containers, including: sports turf, floor tiles, fiberglass, construction materials (road aggregate), and insulation.
Why is composting important? Composting is good for soil, prevents runoff, and fosters plant life development. According to the Whatcom County Composting program, compost “contains a full spectrum of essential plant nutrients, provides good soil structure, and harbors diverse life in soil that supports healthy plant growth.”
Synthetic compost blends can yield quicker results; however, these fast-acting improvements are only temporary, as a new application will be needed after a few months. Organic materials that can all be used in your backyard compost pile include: yard waste (leaves, grass clippings, etc), fruits, vegetables, coffee grounds, eggshells, nutshells, and small amounts of saw dust and wood ash.
Using organic compost instead of a synthetic blend can better address environmental issues, such as runoff. Runoff is a problem that occurs when water carries soil, fertilizers, and pesticides away from plants and gardens, polluting nearby bodies of water. Organic compost fights runoff by increasing the soil’s ability to retain water. The Whatcom County Composting website states that only a 5% increase organic material will quadruple the soils water holding capacity.
1. Prevent food waste.
2. Balance the mixture of materials.
3. Avoid pest-attracting materials.
4. Keep the pile in a warm, damp area.
5. Aerate to increase oxygen in pile.
Sustainable Purchasing in Your Office
Purchasing Strategies to Prevent Waste and Save Money is a publication from the National Recycling Coalition. It offers several useful tips to create less waste when making purchases.
1. Purchase non-toxic cleaners with low or no volatile organic compounds (VOC).
2. Reuse and refill toner cartridges/ribbons.
3. Buy in bulk.
4. Buy products made of post-consumer recycled materials.
5. Minimize costs and waste associated with renovation and replacement.
• Oklahoma Recycling Association
Last Modified on 04/27/2010
State of Oklahoma
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