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Effective Recycling Program Relies on Communication, Education
by Ron Moore   

Lets talk trash, green trash, that is.

Green cleaning, when done properly and completely, encompasses every corner of the building, even the trash can. The concept of green cleaning is to promote the productivity and health of building occupants by improving indoor air quality and reducing exposures to harmful chemicals, allergens and contaminants. (All of the things that are found in the trash.) As we consider green cleaning for our facilities and we definitely should consider it ” let's not forget the trash.

Some Green Trash Tips

  • Green trash procedures should include a reduction in the use of plastic liners. Therefore, a frequent cleaning of waste and recycling receptacles is necessary. Wash containers with warm water and a pH neutral multi-purpose cleaner.
  • Empty personal recycling receptacles into blue liners, then into blue cube trucks, used specifically and only for recyclables. Remove to recycle receptacles outside the building.
  • Ensure the building collection meets the guidelines from the local recycling hauler and recycling facility.
  • Bio-hazard and toxic waste should be removed only by a licensed abatement vendor.
  • Use low-petroleum, high-density liners.
  • Food containers such as soda cans should be rinsed clean before being placed in recycling containers so as to not attract pests.
  • Take particular care to pull trash before weekends and holidays.
  • The most effective way to reduce operational waste is to reduce incoming packaging materials. This can be done by purchasing in bulk or asking vendors to use recyclable materials.

In special function areas, removal of trash requires special procedures and conditions such as:

Breakrooms and Kitchens: Food waste should not be left longer than six hours in the receptacles. There is nothing worse than coming back to the building on Monday morning only to smell last Friday's leftover pizza, still sitting in the garbage.

Childcare Facilities: Waste receptacles where diapers and baby wipes are thrown away should not be left longer than 12 hours between removals.

While waste reduction and recycling activities can contribute significantly toward a more environmentally-friendly building, it is also an especially difficult challenge for a multi-tenant building because these activities involve the cooperation of everyone in the facility. Consequently, an effective waste reduction and recycling program relies on communication and education to make building occupants aware of the need to recycle and otherwise reduce the amount of waste generated.

The three R's of green cleaning are: reduce, recycle and reuse. All three have something to do with trash. For example:

  1. Reduce solid waste by purchasing chemical products and supplies in quantities that minimize the amount of packaging and container waste generated.
  2. Recycle programs in buildings send a positive message to employees and tenants and keep unnecessary items out of landfills.
  3. Reusable materials, such as natural fiber cleaning cloths or micro-fiber, reduce the paper waste in a building.

Recycling is an important pollution prevention activity to reduce burdens on the environment. As a practical matter, make certain it is clear with building occupants what recyclables are to be collected and where they are to be placed. In addition to monitoring receptacles and proper disposal of collected materials, a waste recycling program includes the placement and use of convenient recycling receptacles for office paper, newsprint, aluminum, glass, recyclable plastic, toner cartridges, telephone books, corrugated cardboard and even some computer equipment. A recycling program requires coordinated communication and cooperation of tenants. Cleaning service providers can play a critical role in pulling these elements together as part of a comprehensive cleaning and maintenance program.

No cleaning program is complete until the trash is taken out. No green cleaning program is complete until the three R's of green cleaning are considered and incorporated into trash management.

Ron J. Moore is president of RBM Building Services, Inc. He can be reached at 801.373.2424.


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