Recycling Guide for Businesses

This page is designed to assist businesses in making decisions about how they manage their wastes and how to improve their recycling program. 

What’s the Big Deal?

  • Recycling will save you money.

You pay fees for your garbage removal based on how much garbage you create.  Many haulers don’t even charge a fee for recycling. The more you recycle, donate, reuse, and compost, the more your business will save.

  • Recycling is good for the environment.

Recycling reduces the demand on the natural environment for the raw materials needed to make new products (water, lumber, oil, electricity, metal ores). The more we conserve these natural resources, the longer we can sustain modern life on earth. Recycling also reduces the air, water, and land pollution that threatens plant, animal, and human life on earth.

  • Recycling is good for your business.

Consumers are becoming more environmentally conscious. They want to buy products and support businesses that foster sustainable practices. By promoting your efforts to reduce waste, you are increasing your customer perception of value in your brand. 

Benefits of Waste Reduction

-reduce expenses on raw materials, office supplies, equipment

-increase efficiency in operations

-demonstrate concern for the environment which increases customer perception of value

-save money on reduced costs for waste removal

-help slow the depletion of natural resources

-help reduce environmental pollution and hazards

-conserve landfill space for future generations 

Recycling Tool-Kit

Use these resources to improve your recycling program and start enjoying the benefits of waste reduction!




Take the Recycling Pledge

Take the Cornell Cooperative Extension Recycling Pledge to reduce, reuse, and recycle as much as possible. Contact the Recycling Educator to be added to the list of participating businesses and to receive your official certificate.


Waste Prevention Concepts

  • Remove the need for disposable packing by choosing to use more durable supplies. This is the quickest way to start saving money and adopt a zero-waste workplace or business. Let’s look at coffee as an example. If employees brought in their own mug, that would reduce the cost of purchasing disposable coffee cups. If sugar was available in bulk, served with a spoon, it would eliminate wasteful sugar packets and disposable stirrers and save overhead expenses. And if the coffee grounds and coffee filter were to be composted, it would virtually eliminate waste all together!
  • Eliminating unnecessary overstock. Looking at your process for managing inventory and ordering supplies is a great place to look for waste reduction strategies. Avoid ordering supplies that may never get used. If you can order supplies in bulk or economy size packaging, it may also cut costs.
  • Use double-sided printing and copying as a default printer setting. This literally cuts your paper use in half!
  • Circulate memos and documents instead of printing multiple copies. Include a checklist for employees who have seen it, or even better yet, use email rather than traditional mail.
  • Use electronic data storage instead of paper files.
  • Reducing the use of hazardous materials. Most cleaning supplies are considered hazardous waste and require special disposal that can be very costly. Evaluate what types of cleaning supplies are being used and if there are better options within your budget. Learn about all natural cleaning supplies that can be made from biodegradable materials. Purchase liquids in concentrated or bulk form and use refillable dispensers.
  • Encourage employees to bring lunches in reusable containers.
  • Set up a food waste composting program. Composting is one of the most effective ways to reduce the volume of trash you create and enjoy the cost savings of waste reduction. Especially if your business is related to the food industry, most of your wastes can be composted. 

Re-Use Concepts

  • Share supplies. Let your employees set up an area to exchange unwanted items for free.
  • Donate and circulate old magazines, journals, office furniture, etc. You may also be eligible for tax credits for making donations to charitable organizations. View a list of local Material Exchange Organizations here. 
  • Make scratch pads from used paper.
  • Invest in re-usable supplies instead of disposable ones. 

Recycling Concepts

  • Make sure recycling bins are always directly next to trash bins.
  • Recycling bins should be clearly labeled as such, with signs describing what materials should be recycled.
  • If possible, color-code your bins to make trash bins black and recycling bins blue or green.
  • Keep a separate bin for your deposit containers (water bottles, soda cans, etc) where employees have lunch or snacks. This is an under-utilized source of revenue. Once per month, treat your staff to pizza with the funds from returning the cans, or donate the funds to a local community group.
  • If everyone in your office receives mail in a central location, hang a sign to inform them that all junk mail, envelopes, and magazines are recyclable. Place a small recycling bin near that location. 

More Resources

NYS Department of Environmental Conservation // Recycling for Businesses

NYS Department of Environmental Conservation // Buy Recycled Products 

NYS Department of Environmental Conservation // Reducing Office Paper Handbook 

Environmental Protection Agency // Resources for Businesses

U.S. Composting Council // A Guide to Workplace Composting


Angelina Peone
Recycling Educator
518-372-1622 ext. 264

Last updated September 8, 2017