Step 3 (of 6) Toward a Successful Waste and Recycling Program

Step 3: Vocalize

Step 3: Vocalize

There is not a “one-size fits all” when it comes to building a successful waste and recycling program, but there are some basic steps to success that have proven to work for businesses large and small. This week, we’re talking about Step 3: Vocalize of the RUBICONMethod. Follow along in this six-week blog series for information on each of the six steps, or download the full guide to work through each step at your own pace and access all the provided checklists and worksheets.

Over the past two weeks, we have worked through Step 1: Determine and Step 2: Initiate. These steps helped you determine your existing waste landscape and initiate a plan forward. Now, it’s time to Vocalize.

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Step 3: Vocalize

With your action plan in place, it’s time to vocalize the plan and educate a variety of stakeholders. The best way to do so is through signage, training and a central point of contact.

Let’s start with training…

Program improvements to staff, vendors, and custodians

RUBICONMethod Step 3

It’s time to train all staff, vendors and custodial services across the business on your new plan.

Staff and Vendor Training

It’s important to remember that your staff and vendors may not all understand the impact recycling has on the environment, your brand, or the bottom line – or even how/why their individual actions matter. Consider sharing some background information with them before diving into training.

Once they understand the why, train them on the nuts and bolts of your plan, the signage, and how it will impact their daily actions. Be sure to cover the topics in the list below and anything else relevant to your specific plan.

Staff and Vendor Training List

  • Where should staff/vendors put their different types of waste?
  • What signage should they look for, and what does each sign mean?
  • Where can they direct questions, seek clarification and report issues?
  • How can they get more involved? (e.g. a company “Green Team”)

Custodial Services Training

Many business locations have separate custodial services, such as a janitorial crew that works at night. These individuals are often responsible for depositing bin contents into the correct back-of-house equipment. Training is as critical for this team as it is for staff and other vendors. Follow the list below to ensure this team is trained appropriately.

Custodial Training List

  • Which bags/liners go in which bins?
  • Clear/Blue liners: for recyclables
  • Black liners: for trash/landfill
  • Green biodegradable liners for food waste/compost (if applicable)
  • What is the proper breakdown of materials (i.e. collapsing cardboard boxes) to preserve container space?
  • Which bins get emptied into which equipment/dumpsters?
  • How to operate new equipment, such as balers or compactors?
  • Where can they direct questions, seek clarification or report issues?

While this seems relatively straightforward, you shouldn’t assume that one training meeting is enough to change old habits. Provide regular reminders and set up a system to enforce accountability. Ensure that your waste plan and sustainability protocol are part of your reporting structure and that each stakeholder is accountable for his/her impact on success.

*Quick Tip: Maintaining stakeholder buy-in is imperative to achieve the support needed for long-term plan success.

The questions below can help you think through other stakeholders and what/when to communicate with each group.RUBICONMethod GraphicWhoever your stakeholders may be, they will likely expect regular updates, transparency, and results from your plan. Step 6 addresses how to track your results (download the full guide now), but in the meantime, begin planning how to communicate the data and proof your stakeholders need to be your greatest advocates.

Successful communication is a two-way street. It’s time to establish a feedback loop…

Internal team leaders for feedback and questions

Create a central point of contact for your waste plan, providing all stakeholders with a go-to resource to ask questions, give feedback, report issues and collaborate on key learnings. Consider implementing some or all of the following measures:

  • Create a central email address for questions/feedback
  • Start a “Green Team” of passionate staff to educate peers
  • Devise a rewards/incentives program to encourage participation
  • Institute friendly competition among departments/locations
  • Supply recruitment and employee onboarding materials

With consistent signage, repetitive training, centralized accountability and ongoing support, your plan will be well communicated internally and set for success.

Now, let’s set our sights on communicating externally…

Customer communication & brand reputation

RUBICONMethod Step 3

Not only can signage educate and build habits among your internal stakeholders, but it can also help educate and instill habits among your external customer base.By proactively communicating sustainability initiatives, you’re showing consumers the commitment your business has toward preserving the environment.

Make sustainability part of your brand recognition and generate buzz around the great work your business is doing by incorporating some of these external communications activities into your program.

Ways to Spread the Word About Your Sustainability Initiatives

  • Parking lot signage reminding retail customers: Don’t forget your reusable shopping bags
  • Table-top signage reminding patrons that: Napkins are made from trees (please use sparingly)
  • Server training and signage stating: To reduce plastic waste, we provide straws upon request
  • Hard-to-recycle material collection bins, available to customers through TerraCycle
  • Press releases, media interviews and website postings that announce your business’ sustainability goals and offerings

*Did You Know? — TerraCycle provides businesses with unique recycling options for everything from toothpaste tubes to coffee cups/lids to K-cups to dog food bags.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and when it comes to recycling, it’s true…

Picture-based bin signage

RUBICONMethod Step 3

Picture-based, color-coordinated signage is one of the best ways to build recycling habits and educate stakeholders. Recycle Across America (RAA), a 501)c)(3) nonprofit organization, created the society-wide standardized labels for bins. The labels eliminate confusion at the bin, making it easy for people to recycle more while also reducing contamination. RAA offers labels for all sorting requirements as well as custom solutions for unique sorting systems and bins.

Signage Best Practices

  • Use only images of materials locally accepted at each site
  • Use signage consistently across an entire site
  • Use bilingual signs if appropriate
  • Leave no bin unlabeled (including restrooms)

Once you have worked through each of the above sections, you will have successfully vocalized your new waste reduction plan and will be prepared to move on to Step 4 of the RUBICONMethod.

For the complete step-by-step guide to implementing a successful waste and recycling program, click here.

Step 2Step 4

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