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What It Is

Recycling is the practice of breaking down an old product, such as a plastic bottle or an aluminum can, and using it to create a new one. Recycling reduces the need to harvest new natural resources produce products.  

While the first two goals should always be to reduce usage and to reuse materials, recycling is the best option if neither of the first two options are feasible.


Why It Matters

Many businesses and nonprofits pay to rent a dumpster. Recycling reduces the amount of waste sent to the dumpster, which can reduce your rental fees and overall waste expenses.

At a community level, recycling conserves natural resources, prevents pollution, saves energy, and reduces landfill volume.


Getting Started

Research whether your municipality offers business recycling. If not, there may be private haulers that will pick up your organization’s recycling. Next, set up recycling bins at your place of business. Designate which materials can go where. Typically recycled materials include:

    • paper
    • cardboard
    • plastic
    • glass
    • metal


If a recycling service is not a feasible expense, see if there is an employee volunteer force that may be willing to rotate the responsibility of taking recyclables to the community drop off. If your organization is near other organizations, it may be possible to share containers or responsibilities.


Going Further

Set up employee recycling stations for recyclable materials that take a little more effort, such as:

    • batteries
    • ink cartridges
    • computers
    • cell phones
    • packaging materials
    • plastic bags
    • electrical appliances
    • paint


To find out where you can recycle materials like these, visit the Earth 911 Recycling Website.


Advanced Steps

There may be materials you haven’t considered as reusable or recyclable in your organization’s waste stream. For example, one Green Plus Certified business, The Taylor Companies, found that two outputs of furniture production could be reused. Leather scraps were a desirable material for a purse manufacturer, while sawdust was desirable for horse farmers who used the material in stables. The connections made reduced waste hauling fees.

To identify possible upcycling opportunities, consider conducting a solid waste audit. Many businesses are now going so far as to eliminate all landfill waste, known as “zero waste to landfill.” It can take research to figure out how to achieve zero landfill status, but there are now many examples available that prove that it’s possible.



  • This is a link to the Earth 911 Recycling Website. Simply type in what you want to recycle and where your business is located. This tool will show you the nearest locations where you can recycle your products.
  • This link is a How-To-Guide for recycling from the Natural Resources Defense Council.
  • This is a link about e-cycling developed by the EPA. The link includes information about where to e-cycle for your business.
  • This is a link that describes the importance of recycling CFLs containing Mercury, as well as where such recycling occurs.
  • This link is a How-To-Guide for handling and disposing of hazardous waste for small businesses.
  • This link is the Orange County Recycling site and is an A to Z index of what can be recycled in Orange County and where specific materials can be recycled.
  • This link is a calculator tool that calculates the environmental benefits of recycling.
  • This link was developed by the Sierra Club and explains ways to recycle old computers.
  • For more information on the proper disposal of batteries, hazardous wastes, and electronics, see this link developed by the Natural Resource Defense Council.


Case Study

The Brooklyn Brewery

The Brooklyn Brewery in Brooklyn, NY began a recycling program in 2003 to reduce its solid waste output. Most of the measures they took were simple, such as recycling cardboard and plastic wastes. After implementing the recycling program, Brooklyn Brewery reduced its annual waste by 50% and saved $25,000 per year in hauling costs.[1]


Glossary of Related Terms

E-cycling: The recycling of electronics.

Post-consumer Recycled Products: Products that are created from material recycled by a consumer after its use (i.e., newspapers, cans, and bottles). For instance, paper that contains 100% recycled paper (30% post consumer recycled) means that 70% of the paper comes from scraps/misprints/tests/etc that were collected and recycled at the manufacturing site, while the other 30% was used by consumers and then recycled.

Recycling: Collecting recyclable materials otherwise considered waste and processing these into input materials for the manufacturing of new products. For more information on recycling, click here.



[1] “Waste Audits,” Natural Resources Defense Council,, accessed 5 August 2013.

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