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I am working for a global company and in a four-story building within which there does not exist any recycle bins anywhere, Neither paper-recycle bins nor battery-recycle bins nor electronics-recycle bins nor generic-recycle bins.

I really do believe that a global company should promote recycling in the workplace, but I do not know how to propose it to the company and have an impact.

What is the most professional, and effective way of addressing this issue?

  • How do you know they're not recycling already? Many municipalities, especially the tech crucibles with the big tax base, have single-stream recycling, where you can throw everything into one bin, and high tech machines separate it out at the central facility. Have you checked with facilities or the municipality? Or note the name on the garbage truck and give them a call. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Nov 3 '17 at 2:01
  • The local office I am referring to is located in Athens<Greece where the recycling-logic and technologies you are describing are not exercised. In the previous company, I was working for there existed generic recycle bins, battery recycle bins and broken tech recycle bins. – tsoliaspn Nov 3 '17 at 8:18
  • Related: workplace.stackexchange.com/q/13359/325 – Monica Cellio Nov 5 '17 at 22:05
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You want to change something that is normally the responsibility of others in your company, and others may have a different view on that - or have already evaluated and discarded it. So tread lightly, it is easy to offend others if you attempt to change your organisation. That said, I don´t want do discourage you to take action just warn you: It is going to involve more than just adding a few containers.

If you really want to make this happen, find out who is responsible for office management / furniture / waste disposal because this is not normally an HR-responsibility. Try to get in touch with them and have an informal chat where you probe the situation. Hint that you would like to see more recycling bins and see how they react. If he/she is somewhat open you can volunteer to support, but don´t take away their responsibility.

Another option could be to draft a decision proposal to the responsible manager. It should contain a good overview of costs, benefits and risk and be neutral as in: Hey, I have a suggestion. Maybe you find it helpful. If you decide to act on it, I am happy to support this. If not, no big deal.

In any event, be prepared for very frustrating reasons why nothing can be changed...

  • 3
    Good answer.. option one, but better not to approach HR but the person in charge of office management. In addition, if it's offices in a rented building this is even more important, because it would mean negotiations with the building owners etc,. – Kilisi Nov 2 '17 at 9:16
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Yeah, it's ok to propose these changes, or at least ask. It probably won't be HR that you'll ask. More likely the operations/facilities department (although this really depends on how your company is departmentalized).

I'm not sure that conducting an employee survey is needed, you can ask off your own back.

You're not likely to annoy people by wishing to be more environmentally friendly in the workplace.

However, it's one thing putting bins in the workplace, it's entirely an different thing to organize getting the waste collected and dealt with appropriately.

This will inevitably incur extra cost to the company and may not be economically viable.

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To send a simple email to HR proposing to add recycle bins in the common areas

Which of these options would HR be most likely receive better?

This is the option that would be best received by HR. It's the equivalent of popping a short note in a suggestion box.

Send an email. Explain why you think recycling is important. Explain the kind of bin(s) that could be used - perhaps even with a link to a supply of those bins showing the type and cost.

HR gets these sorts of suggestions all the time. Sometimes they act on them. Sometimes the requests are used to support a future initiative and can help get budget for the initiative. Remember that the big cost here might not be in the bins themselves, but in the service required to empty the contents and send it to a recycling center.

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When I joined my current team, I noticed that we consumed a lot of canned/bottled drinks and had no recycling bins. I asked the office manager (who's responsible for the whole floor, not just us), who told me that we used to have them but people misused them and it was too much trouble, so they stopped. I didn't ask to change that; I was just gathering information.

Next, I investigated whether recycling could be effectively collected. One night when I was staying late enough, I saw the cleaning person and asked if they separated recycling -- if we got a bin for our team, would it end up in recycling or would it just go into the trash anyway? The cleaner told me they collected recycling (and belatedly I noticed the second can on his rolling cart). So I went to the store, bought a bin, put it in our team's common room, and told my team-mates to not make a mess.

I told this story for two reasons. First, your first step should be to gather information. Bins are easy; it's what happens to their contents next that matters. Find out if the people who are already servicing your building are set up for recycling already -- and, if so, if it's just a matter of having bins, or if it would incur extra costs.

Second, armed with that information, approach the powers that be about implementing it. A busy office manager responsible for your whole building will react more favorably to "I checked and we're allowed to have recycling bins at no extra service cost; would it be ok if we got some?" than to "could you get us some recycling support?". Make it easy for the person who has to approve this to say "yes".

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