Five ways SMEs can encourage their employees to recycle

Written by Valda Energy

Renewables, Business News


81% of people in the UK believe there is a climate emergencyand one way to help preserve the environment is through recycling. There are many reasons why recycling is important, including protecting natural resources, cutting climate-changing carbon emissions, and saving energy.  

However, we need to drastically improve our recycling habitsResearch from the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) reveals that from 2000-2020, the recycling rate of household waste in England has increased from 11.2% to 43.8%. However, growth has plateaued to only 0.8% over the last decadewhich meant the UK did not achieve the EU target household recycling rate of 50% by 2020. In fact, Wales was the only part of the UK to meet this target, with a recycling rate of 65.1% in 2020. Therefore, there is clearly still work to do when it comes to recycling. 

Whilst overall levels of recycling are high and considered an established “norm” with 87% of UK households, it can be easy to forget about the waste we produce in the workplace. Offices and other workplaces are full of single-use items – and the majority of office waste is recyclable - but some small businesses might find recycling difficult to implement in practiceSo, here are five practical ways SME owners can encourage their employees to recycle.  

sign with recycling symbol held up


1. Get senior management involved 

If people are going to commit to recycling at work, it’s important to position it as a company-wide value. The best managers lead by example, and try to create an atmosphere where everybody feels like they’re pulling in the same direction. When people see senior management recycling and actively encouraging others to do so, this will help to foster a green workplace culture. Whereas if workers see managers are ignoring the recycling policy, they won’t feel like it’s an important rule to follow.

discussing company recycling target in team


2. Make recycling easy 

Studies have shown that many people find recycling confusing, which means your employees may be more likely to recycle if the process is simple. This can be helped by locating recycling bins in easy-to-spot places where staff are going to need them. For example, such as a kitchen area or easily accessible walkway. Recycling bins also need to be clearly labelled and signed, so people can see them and know exactly what needs to go whereAfter all, nobody wants to have to stand around trying to decipher which bin their empty can needs to go into. This will also help later on in the recycling process as different materials need to be kept apart. 

worker recycling with different colour bins


3. Educate and encourage 

Some colleagues may not be aware of the recycling processes that their workplace has in effect, or they may not be up to date with wider news about recycling and the environment. If people feel like they’re contributing towards a wider community goal, it might be easier to keep them engaged. Recycling can be kept front of mind through creative and catchy messaging which can be shared at meetings, on company websitesor through newsletters, posters and social media. Variety is key to keeping a message fresh. If your company employs external cleaning staff, it could be beneficial to communicate your recycling strategy with them too. 

woman with board with recycling symbol in meeting


4. Incentivise recycling  

Setting up a team incentive is a great way to encourage recycling. Choose a recycling target that can be tracked and measured throughout a set period of time. If the business as a whole reaches their recycling target, then there could be a company-wide reward. Turning recycling into a competition where everyone is on the same team could yield better results than simply putting a policy in place 

discussing recycling in team


5. Remove under-desk bins 

A common sight in offices is the under-desk bin. Throwing away a plastic bag containing a small amount of rubbish from under every person’s desk is a very wasteful process. Removing these bins will be sure to encourage recycling, as people will need to seek out communal recycling bins and perhaps be more selective about what they throw away. Employees will soon get used to using a communal recycling bin, especially if they are on board with the wider green goals of the company.  

recycling bin by desks in office


According to the BEIS Public Attitude Tracker, the UK public is becoming increasingly concerned about climate change. This means both individuals and businesses will need to keep working hard to find new ways to reduce their carbon footprint. Recycling in the workplace will continue to be a practical way we can all do our part. 


Want to know more?

There are many ways that you can make your business more sustainable. There may be some simple changes you could make in your business, such as recycling, changing your light bulbs or cutting down on single-use items.

If you’d like to find out more on how you can make your business more sustainable, check out our blogs below:

Six ways to green your business and save money
Four tips on how to save energy during the winter months
3 simple ways to reduce small business food waste