Best Practices

There are many things you can do to reduce and recycle waste at your business, school, apartment, institution or organization. A robust recycling program benefits the local economy, protects our environment, conserves energy & natural resources, and can help demonstrate your organization’s commitment to sustainability and the community. Furthermore, the Minnesota commercial recycling law requires most businesses who collect four or more cubic yards of waste per week to recycle at least three types of materials.

Best Practices for Everyone

After helping thousands of businesses, we’ve identified these best practices as the most simple and effective actions for any business to reduce waste and recycle better. By implementing these simple steps you’ll be well on your way to clean recycling streams and reduced waste management costs.

Our research shows that clear bin placement is the single, most effective action you can take.

  • Color-Code Bins
    • Black or grey for trash
    • Blue for recycling
    • Green for food waste
  • Clearly Label Bins
    • Label each bin using the color system above. Include simple images of the items that go in the bin and be sure to include labels written in the languages your residents/customers/staff are familiar with. (Order labels for free here.)
  • Co-Locate Bins
    • Always place a trash bin next to a recycling and/or food waste bin. Lonely recycling and food waste bins invite trash when people can’t find another place to dispose of their items.

Recycling is simple and hard at the same time, mostly because what is or is not recyclable is hyper local to the area where you live or work. However, when people learn what and how to recycle, participation increases, and most are happy to do so.

  1. Host a virtual or in-person training session with a Recycling Expert. (We even have funds to pay for staff time, food, and incentives!)
  2. Include recycling information in your resident or staff newsletters and meetings.
  3. Hang educational posters in your common areas.
  4. Share feedback on how everyone is doing, especially your wins! People are motivated by knowing their impact makes a difference. Share graphic/image of a "win" idea.

A waste audit is a sophisticated dumpster dive to analyze and understand what is being thrown away and if it has been separated into the proper waste stream. Waste audits can help you measure and manage your program. Waste audits are especially important for large generators of waste.

  • Identify problem materials to target waste reduction and recycling education efforts.
  • Assess the effectiveness of your recycling program with data.
  • Use your data to provide a feedback loop to your program participants.
  • Use your data to help you “right-size” your trash, recycling and food waste hauling bins and services.

Did you sign it and forget about it? Does it auto renew without your knowledge? Many hauler contracts last multiple years and auto renew with a very limited window of opportunity to cancel them. If you want to save money after implementing your new waste reduction, recycling and food waste efforts, you will need to make changes to your hauler contract. These are things to consider.

  • Make sure that the size of your dumpsters and frequency of pick-up matches the amount of waste you produce. After implementing new recycling and food waste collection efforts, you may be able to decrease the size of your trash dumpster or frequency of pick-up.
  • Make sure you understand all the fees on your invoice. If not, talk to your hauler about them and look at this resource for help. Contracts are often negotiable.
  • Routinely get bids from multiple haulers.

When serving food, choose one material type for food service products – reusable, recyclable or BPI certified compostable products – and only offer that material type. Confusion between trash, recyclable and compostable food service products is the main source of contamination when serving food. Make it easier for folks by only having one option.

graphic explaining how reusables are preferable to recyclables, which are preferable to compostables from an environmental perspective

Look at the materials you throw away again and again. Is there a reusable option? What changes to purchasing, operations or equipment would make it feasible for your business to change to a reusable version? Some common opportunities include:

  1. Switching from plastic forks, spoons, and plates to reusables in employee break areas, cafeterias, and restaurants.
  2. Installing water bottle fillers instead of providing bottled water.
  3. Replacing (or eliminating) delivery of disposable shipping materials with reusable options like crates or totes.

While recycling, organics recycling and reuse are important parts of proper waste management, reducing waste is the best step you can take to protect the environment and your pocketbook! Reducing waste means that you prevent it from being created in the first place. Waste reduction goes one step further than reuse by getting rid of the use of materials entirely. Some examples of waste reduction at businesses include:

  1. Buying in bulk to reduce packaging waste
  2. Changing packaging to reduce waste
  3. Redesigning the production process to maximize materials

Waste Streams

This refers to a collection method in which many types of recyclable items are collected in one container for transportation to a recycling processing center. The following are some helpful tips for single stream recycling.

  1. Contact your hauler to confirm accepted items. Accepted items may differ among haulers. Not all materials displaying the recycling symbol can be placed in single-sort recycling.
  2. Keep recyclables as clean and dry as possible. Paper should be dry, and all food and beverage containers should be free of residual food and liquids. Work with your hauler and the recycling processing center if you are managing recyclables in a compactor.
  3. Never send your recyclables to the recycling processing center in plastic bags because the bags get tangled in the sorting equipment. If you collect your recyclables in plastic bags, shake them out so they are loose in your cart, dumpster or compactor.
  4. Pair color-coded and labeled recycling and trash disposal bins across your facility.

Whether there is a surplus of food or large quantities of food scraps in your trash, food waste is a concern for many businesses, schools and organizations. The following are a few actions you can take to play your part in preventing food waste.

  1. Food donation: You can donate certain edible foods to food rescue organizations.
  2. Organics/food waste collection: Turn your food scraps into compost. Compost is a nutrient-rich amendment used to improve soil. Organics/food waste collection programs for businesses require a hauler to pick up your organics and deliver it to a commercial facility where it can be turned into compost.
  3. Food to animal feed. Turn your expired food, food scraps, and food not suitable for donation into animal feed. Food to animal feed programs for business require a farm to pick up your food scraps and process it into animal feed.
  4. Food to compost and food to animal feed programs can save your business, school or organization money by diverting heavy, wet food waste from your trash collection.
  1. All hazardous waste generators must meet basic requirements to ensure proper management and disposal of all hazardous waste

Best Practices by Industry

Learn best practices in waste, recycling and organics management for your industry. For customized recommendations for your business and grant funding to implement best practices schedule a visit with a Recycling Expert.

Restaurants, cafes, bars, and other food service businesses have unique recycling and waste management needs, but they also have unique opportunities to drastically reduce waste (and trash expenses) by implementing an organics collection program. View best practices and learn how other local businesses have worked with BizRecycling to improve operations at their restaurants and breweries.

Helpful Sites