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System Impacts

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Human Behavior On Waste

Human behavior and interaction with the building space plays a critical component in achieving holistic sustainability. Desired waste reduction results can only be achieved and sustained if occupants have access to reuse and recycling options and receive consistent communication about how to reduce their waste.

Since the success of a waste reduction and recycling program relies on voluntary actions by occupants, it is essential to design a recycling program that meets occupants’ needs and is easy to use.

  • Place bins in locations that are convenient for building occupants to recycle.
  • Provide consistent bin styles, labels (of acceptable/unacceptable waste), and color-coding to minimize confusion and the risk of throwing waste in the wrong bins.
  • Place recycling bins for paper and ink/toner cartridges at printer and copier stations. Trash bins are not required in these support area centers.
  • Pair trash bins with recycling bins in office space, conference rooms, and corridors/lobbies.
  • If deskside waste collection is offered, pair smaller trash bins with larger recycling bins.
  • For buildings with composting programs, place composting, recycling, and trash bins in the break/pantry rooms.

Persistent outreach and education are vital to reduce consumption and waste. The Property Manager, who is most often the building’s Recycling Coordinator, plays a key role in regularly monitoring and communicating the building’s waste management program to building occupants and facilities management personnel. Annual recycling events, singularly, do not affect behavior change. Consider implementing several strategies, tailored to the workplace, and monitor waste diversion performance results for reduced volumes of waste or increased recycling.

  • Post clear, consistent signage on trash, recycling, and compost bins, at all locations where waste is collected in the building.
  • List materials that can/cannot be recycled, composted, and disposed in the trash.
  • Explain how and where recycled materials are collected and maintain consistency in how these materials are collected throughout the building. Federal buildings typically have one of these recycling services:
    • Single Stream Collection: All recyclable materials (paper, cardboard, glass, plastic, metal) are collected in the same container and separated by the recycler at a materials recovery facility.
    • Commingled Collection: All plastic, glass, and metal are ‘commingled’ in one collection container and paper and cardboard are collected in other containers.
    • Source Separated Collection: Each recyclable material (paper, plastic, metal, and glass) is collected in separate bins, usually for increased revenue for sorted material types or grades.
  • Display waste diversion performance metrics and environmental benefits on wall-mounted digital message monitors in corridors and common areas.
  • During tenant or Green Team meetings, deliver briefings and presentations to tenants and contractor staff that cover information about waste, recycling, and composting procedures. A Green Team is a voluntary, organized group of tenants that promote individual sustainable practices, such as waste prevention and recycling.
  • Conduct promotional events, with booths and informational flyers/brochures. For example, host annual or biannual e-waste collections, building solid waste audit events, and Earth Day (Apr 22) and America Recycles Day (Nov 15) events to boost recycling participation, remove stockpiled items, and minimize improper disposal.

See GSA Workplace 2030's tip sheet on Solid Waste Management in the Home Office for more ideas

Best Practices and Strategies

Promote benefits of filtered water (over purchasing bottled water). Promote material exchange/office supply exchange stations in the building, especially during tenant moves. Encourage pilot project ideas, from tenants or custodial personnel, which encourage waste reduction, reuse, and recycling.
Promote reduced waste and increased recycling through voluntary tenant pledge cards and building challenges or competitions. During tenant moves, send memos to remind tenants about proper recycling and disposal procedures. Contact the GSA Personal Property Area Officer for support with personal property disposal requirements. While the type and level of service varies, waste management and recycling companies, as well as state and local authorities, may have free or low-cost outreach materials.
Consider Green Team projects to reduce consumption and waste