Understanding and Reducing Your Business’ Carbon Footprint through Recycling

Reducing your carbon footprint as an individual household is one thing, but achieving a reduced carbon footprint for your entire business or organization is another feat entirely. Still, your business’ carbon impact has never been more paramount. This objective isn’t just about responding to increased regulatory pressures or saving on costs, it’s also about positioning your company as a responsible brand with company values that privilege sustainability.

As a business leader, your choices can significantly contribute to mitigating these challenges, and recycling can play a pivotal role in these efforts. Today, we’re delving into the carbon footprint of businesses and sharing actionable strategies to implement or enhance recycling programs within your own organization.

Understanding Carbon Footprint

In simple terms, a business’ carbon footprint is the total greenhouse gas emissions caused directly or indirectly by an organization. This metric is typically measured in units of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) to account for the various different greenhouse gasses and their relative impact on global warming.

It’s important to note that a business’ carbon footprint isn’t limited to the emissions from its offices, factories, or vehicles. On the contrary; your carbon footprint includes the total emissions resulting from all the activities associated with running the business – from the electricity consumed in corporate and home offices, to the transportation of goods, and even the emissions from the full lifecycle of products or services that you sell. 

There’s a good amount of research showing the significant impact businesses have on the global carbon footprint. According to the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), in 2020, just 100 companies were responsible for 71% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions since 1988. This highlights the immense potential and responsibility businesses hold in helping reduce carbon emissions.

Your business contributes to these greenhouse gas emissions through your operations, but your organization will also bear the brunt of impacts from increased greenhouse gas emissions. From disrupted supply chains due to extreme weather events, to fluctuating agricultural prices because of unpredictable crop yields, businesses face tangible, bottom-line impacts from climate change. So, by actively reducing your carbon footprint, your company can help mitigate these impacts and, in the process, open up new opportunities for cost savings and reputation enhancement. 

The Role of Recycling in Reducing Carbon Footprint

Recycling plays an instrumental role in reducing carbon footprint and is one of the most accessible and effective strategies for businesses to implement. But how exactly does this work?

The relationship between recycling and carbon reduction lies in the process of resource extraction, manufacturing, and waste disposal. When we recycle, we: 

  • Reduce the need for extracting and processing new raw materials, which are energy-intensive processes that contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions. 
  • Save on the energy used in manufacturing products from raw materials, which in turn helps decrease emissions. 
  • Prevent waste from ending up in landfills where it would decay and release methane – a potent greenhouse gas.

Let’s delve into some data. According to a study by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), recycling and composting 89 million tons of municipal solid waste saved over 181 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2018 – which is equal to the annual emissions from over 39 million passenger vehicles. That’s a lot of emissions.

What’s more, research by the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) in the UK found that recycling just one tonne of plastic can save up to 1.5 metric tons of carbon dioxide. Since businesses often generate significant amounts of waste, the potential carbon reduction through recycling can be substantial.

Let’s take a more concrete example. Recycling paper instead of making it from new material leads to 35% less water pollution and 74% less air pollution. This reduced consumption of resources translates directly into lower carbon emissions. The same applies to other recyclable materials like plastic, metal, and glass – as well as textile recycling and e-waste recycling.

By adopting or improving your recycling initiatives, your business can contribute to reducing the demand for new raw materials, curtail energy consumption, and thus lower emissions, ultimately helping to decrease your overall carbon footprint. Let’s explore some strategies for implementing an effective recycling program for your organization.

Strategies for Implementing a Recycling Program in Your Business

With a strategic approach and the right recycling partner by your side, your business can successfully integrate a recycling program and start reaping its numerous benefits. Here are some key steps you can follow:

Identifying What Materials Can Be Recycled in Your Business

The first step is to understand what materials in your business are recyclable. Most businesses generate recyclable waste like paper, plastic, glass, metal, and electronics. Also consider other more specialized items like cleaning supplies, hazardous waste, and candles. Look at your supply chain, product packaging, office supplies, and any waste generated from your services. This step can offer surprising insights into waste generation and point to areas where waste reduction can be achieved.

Getting Started with a Recycling Program

Make sure to check these three things off your list when implementing a recycling program:

  • Conduct a Waste Audit: Start by determining the volume and types of waste your business produces. A waste assessment involves collecting, categorizing, and weighing all waste generated by your business in a specified period. This provides a baseline from which you can measure the success of your recycling program.
  • Educate Employees: A recycling program will only succeed with the cooperation and understanding of your entire team. Educate employees about the importance of recycling and provide clear instructions on how to participate, from rinsing out and sorting recyclable materials to items that are and aren’t recyclable.
  • Find Recycling Partners: Not all waste can be recycled through municipal programs. A comprehensive recycling program will likely require partnering with a specialized recycling vendor like CheckSammy to dispose of a wider range of items like electronics, textiles, and more.

Maximizing the Effectiveness of Your Recycling Program

There are some simple steps your business can take to help ensure your recycling program is a success:

  • Make Recycling Easy: Place recycling bins next to every trash can and in high traffic areas. Clearly label bins to prevent contamination of recyclable materials. Provide clear instructions for disposal of hazardous or specialized items.
  • Regularly Review and Improve Your Program: Like any business initiative, your recycling program should be subject to regular review and improvement. Use the data from your waste audits to tweak and enhance your program on a quarterly or bi-annual basis.
  • Communicate Successes: Share the successes and milestones of your recycling program with your employees. This not only promotes the program but also fosters a sense of collective achievement and pride.

Partner with Sustainable Recycling Experts

Implementing a recycling program is a proactive step in reducing your business’s carbon footprint. While the initial setup may require some additional effort, with an experienced recycling partner like CheckSammy by your side, the process is easier than you might anticipate. Plus, the long-term benefits for your business and the environment make it a worthwhile investment. To learn more about how we can develop a customized recycling program for your business, contact us today.


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