10 useful recycling tips for facility managers

10 useful recycling tips for facility managers

By Aidan Bell, co-founder, EnviroBuild

The influence and impact on the environment a facility manager can have is substantial. To bring about a positive change, managers will need to assess, improve and change the process, mindset and operations of their facility and staff.  And for good reason according to recent research by MacNabb Waste, which states that 56% of UK businesses are not fully compliant with their legal responsibilities under the waste management legislation. We’ve compiled our top 10 recycling tips for facility managers to help positively impact your business and the environment.

  1. Waste audit

The first step in improving your premises’ waste management efforts is a waste audit. This can be outsourced to a consultant or can be conducted internally, depending on the size of your facility and resources available. Just a small upfront commitment can yield significant long term gains.

During the audit, it is essential to determine the volume and type of waste generated in each area of your facility, as well as shining a light on any waste and recycling problems that currently occur during the waste management process.

The findings can be used to identify how to improve your existing waste system by addressing the most significant causes of waste, the disposal of said waste, and the services and equipment required. This in turn will help to inform your where money can be saved and better used. Repeating an audit, perhaps 6 – 12 months later, allows for recognition of changes made and the opportunity to pick up any missed opportunities or new problems.

  1. Goal setting

Following a successful audit, there’s a great opportunity for facilities managers to set goals. The key here is to set SMART objectives; Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound. These goals should be set both over the short term and long term, so teams and colleagues are making short term incremental changes with significantly progressive long term gains. Achievable goals also help the team stay motivated and should consequently improve the recycling process.

Within your waste audit, the biggest opportunities for recycling should have been identified and thus prioritized to make the largest short term improvements. Large quantities of cardboard from deliveries may be ending up in regular bins when this is easily recycled. Likewise, high volumes of glass or plastic bottles could be thrown away with food waste every day in a kitchen or cafeteria.

Targeting the largest opportunities first will see the greatest impact and go along way to get the whole team on board, as results are quickly realized, motivation to improve will follow. New goals can then be introduced into the strategy to target lower impact opportunities.

  1. Understand your needs

A full waste audit should determine the volume of waste generated on-site, and inform the amount and type of bins you need for both indoor and outdoor placement.

Does your facility require specialised collection? For example, a healthcare facility will likely have used syringes, needles or empty drug containers that will need disposing of correctly. The medical waste would obviously require a separate collection method to something that’s not hazardous such as household plastics. Similarly, a law firm will have confidential and sensitive information that will need responsibly disposing of, but crucially, there are providers of this service that do so across the UK and recycle both paper and electronic sensitive and confidential waste.

It’s also important at this stage to understand bin allocation and placement, in sports and entertainment venues, for example, there will be a high number of people, so you need to consider floor space and accessibility. Whereas offices and schools don’t have the same density of people, it’s important to not trade off container numbers for cost, a reduction in the number of recycling bins will save money but reduce accessibility, negatively impacting on materials recycled.

  1. Review your existing contract

New facilities managers or existing ones that wish to improve a premises’ waste management efforts may find a substantial opportunity in reviewing the contract in place with your waste disposal provider. Once new recycling goals have been set and gains identified, you may need to change the service that best works for your new operating rhythm.

Monitor your waste and collections, if your bins are not full, then look to change your collection schedule to better suit your demand. Renegotiating collections could also make you a considerable saving.

It’s also worthwhile to understand the recyclable items your chosen provider collects. If there are certain recyclable materials that you produce in bulk as waste, such as glass bottles but your current provider don’t offer this as a service, it would be worthwhile researching others in your area. Knowing all the available options for collection will help you design and budget your recycling strategy effectively.

  1. Training

With auditing, needs, and facilities established, it’s now down to you and your team to execute the strategy you have worked hard to shape.

Before launching your new recycling strategy, take the time to train your team so everyone is on the same page. This doesn’t have to be a long drawn out task; summarise the main points, make individuals aware of the changes and the goals you’ve set. Encourage questions and feedback to make sure everyone understands and continues to improve the entire process.

Initial training should cover:

  • Recycling bin locations across the facility
  • What can and can’t go into each receptacle
  • Special circumstances
  • Goals you’ve set out for each team and individual
  1. Communication

As with anything important, communication is vital for success. If you’re making changes on top of your existing recycling efforts, it is always beneficial to relaunch and reinforce the team of the principles, environmental impact and the difference they can make to the environment.

Following the initial launch or relaunch, ensure you maintain communications through monthly meetings or reports to keep the team up to date with goals, progress and continually reminded of your waste strategy.

As the facility manager, it would make sense to create a simple line of communication for your team to provide feedback or suggestions on how to improve and streamline the system.

  1. Share and celebrate results

Some team members may not naturally passionate about recycling or the environment can easily lose track and forget targets. When goals are hit they should be celebrated and shared with the team for a communal sense of achievement. Creating ‘champions’ of change and recycling can also help with drive individuals to do more.

A good way to give a progress report is to simply use the audit figures. Estimate the amount of certain materials recycled or general waste prevented from going to landfill since implementing a new strategy. Giving visual examples such as “so far we have stopped the equivalent of 6.5 tons of recyclable waste going to landfill – the equivalent of 2 African Elephants”, can go a long way to put into perspective the difference made and continue to motivate waste prevented.

  1. Signage

There is currently no national colour scheme for household or commercial waste and recycling containers, so we recommend using colours and images that are commonly used and match that of your waste disposal provider.

Use bold, easily identifiable images, signage and colours help to catch attention and remind your team to recycle. While having well labelled, easily identifiable waste and recycling bins will help with segregation and collection.

It’s important to update your recycling posters and labels after launching your new strategy to include any new items.

  1. Creating a culture

The most important task for a facilities manager is to change the culture of the company. Continual training, communication and signage go a long way to reinforce the changes and improve a facility’s mentality.

Crucially, there needs to be buy-in from the very top, senior management attitude filters down and helps to get everyone else get on board. Similarly, the inclusion of members from as many different departments as possible will help to speed up and expand the reach of the cultural shift.

  1. Organic Waste and Grey Water

Its common sense to recycle cardboard, plastic and glass but have you ever considered organic waste and grey water?

Although not strictly recycling, a facility will likely be a constant source of organic material that could be diverted from the landfill: leftover lunches, kitchen prep castoffs and plant-based cuttings from the grounds. Composting could be a great solution for your facility, it isn’t widely practised at a residential level, let alone commercial but a waste audit would show the percentage of waste a facility produces that is organic and suitable for composting. This varies from facility to facility but can be 50% of waste or even higher.

Grey water reuse can also help drive significant water bill savings. You would need to invest upfront for grey water collection and distribution systems, but long term gains can be beneficial financially and environmentally.


There are some simple proactive steps that can be taken to help green your facility, with clear win-win financial and environmental results that are hard to ignore in this day and age. Leading by example, setting clear SMART objectives and constant communication is key to motivating your team and yielding the full potential of savings.


10 useful recycling tips for facility managers