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Garbage vs. Recycle vs. Compost

One of the most challenging aspects of our job, is keeping up the ever-changing Recology mandates. Here in the Bay Area we have some strict rules about what goes into the Land Fill > Compost > Recycling. You can use black trash liners in the landfill bins, but not the recycling, those have to be clear. Compost liners are costly but do help to cut down on the smell and you don’t have to wash the can as often and the list goes on.

Most people don’t think about what goes into which cans until their garbage company sends them a letter and usually (if it’s a repeat offense) a huge fine.

It is important to train your employees to be careful with disposing of their trash. Most buildings have a pretty simple set-up. This is the standard at our office:

For the restrooms – paper towels only in the bins. They are not to be lined and they are to be put into the compost / green bin.

Recycle / Blue Bins – no can liners.  Commonly accepted recyclables include: paper, plastic, cardboard, and aluminum. You do not need individual bins for recycle. The items below can all be put into the same cans.

Land Fill: Black Bins –clear or black garbage liners. This is everything that is not recycling or compost. But be sure not to throw away batteries or light bulbs! Those must be handled specially.

The info below is a handy guide that you may want to hang in the kitchen or wherever you have multiple bins.

  1. Paper:
    Paper (staples okay)
    Newspaper
    Envelopes
    Junk mail
    Phone books
    Brochures Magazines 
  1. Cardboard:
    Ream wrappers
    File folders
    Poster board
    Frozen food boxes
    Cardboard boxes
    Milk cartons
  2. Plastic:
    Water bottles
    Take-out containers
    Soda bottles
    Bagged film plastics
  3. Aluminum:
    Aluminum beverage cans
    Food cans
    Scrap metal
    Some small appliances
  4. Glass:
    Bottles (clear, green & brown)
    Jars

Compost –The list is long and varied.

From the Kitchen:

  • All Food Waste
  • Egg shells (crushed)
  • Coffee grounds
  • Coffee filters
  • Tea bags (Make sure they are made of natural materials like hemp or cotton, and not rayon or other synthetics. If in doubt, just open it and compost the tea leaves alone.)
  • Loose leaf tea
  • Used paper napkins and paper towels
  • Unwaxed cardboard pizza boxes (ripped or cut into small pieces)
  • Paper bags (shredded)
  • The crumbs you sweep off the counters and floors
  • Crumbs from the bottom of snack food packaging
  • Paper towel rolls (shredded)
  • Cardboard boxes from cereal, pasta, etc. (Remove any plastic windows and shred)
  • Used paper plates (if they don’t have a waxy coating)
  • Nut shells (except for walnut shells, which are toxic to plants)
  • Unpopped, burnt popcorn kernels
  • Peanut shells
  • Cardboard egg cartons (cut them up)
  • Wine corks (chop up so they decompose faster)
  • Toothpicks
  • Bamboo skewers (break them into pieces)
  • Paper cupcake or muffin cups

From the Bathroom

  • Used facial tissues
  • Toilet paper rolls (shredded)
  • Old loofahs (cut up, natural only)
  • Cardboard tampon applicators

From the Office

  • plain paper documents (shredded)
  • Envelopes (shredded, minus the plastic window)
  • Pencil shavings
  • Sticky notes (shredded)
  • Old business cards (shredded, if they’re not glossy)

One of the things you want to make sure to do is shred those papers. Composting can take a while, you don’t want a full sheet with account information on it, just sitting around in a pile of dirt. Shredding the docs allows them to break down even faster while providing the necessary security.

 

If you have questions or want to host a training session for your employees, most county waste management programs offer onsite training.

Here are some links to Bay Area Waste Management Companies:
https://www.recology.com/

https://www.republicservices.com/

https://ssfscavenger.com/ 

https://www.wm.com/us

A common misconception in our business is that your janitor will sort through your trash for you… NOT SO. We will make sure the liners are the correct type and will dispose of items into the proper totters. The most important thing you can do is train your employees. Make sure everyone is on the same page and helping to save the earth and the company some $$.

 

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It Ain’t Easy Being Green…

Going green means implementing certain changes designed to help you live in a more eco-friendly way. It means becoming more environmentally aware and changing behaviors and lifestyles to reduce the amount of pollution and waste you generate. The decision to go green is a gradual process for most people and businesses. Any action you take that contributes to sustainable living makes a positive impact on the environment. It is not an instant fix; but everyone can take baby steps to change his or her current lifestyle to make a difference for the Earth and future generations.

Going Green 101

Going green is often simply a matter of replacing old habits with new ones. Here a just a few that can be implemented both at home and in the office:

  • Turn Off Lights – Switch off lights as you leave a room, which saves energy and reduces your electricity bill
  • Set Your Thermostat – Set your thermostat above 78 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer and below 60 in the winter. Wear less clothing in summer and more in winter. Open windows rather than running the air conditioner, if possible.
  • Go Digital – more and more businesses are going the paperless route. Do you really need to print out that email?  Can you digitally sign that document?
  • Recycle – Recycle aluminum, cardboard, glass and plastic materials if possible. By doing so you reduce the amount of waste headed to landfills.
  • Brown Bag it – Bringing your lunch from home in reusable containers is the greenest and often most healthy way to eat at work.  No plastic forks and knives and it cuts down on delivery or take out Styrofoam containers.
  • Change Your Light Bulbs – Switch to compact fluorescent bulbs which last longer and use less energy.
  • Carpool, Bike or Bus – Carpool with your co-workers or take your bike when weather permits. Familiarize yourself with your city’s public transportation and bus systems. You’ll cut your gas bill and reduce your car emissions.
  • Unplug – Even when appliances are turned off they continue to draw electricity. Unplug electronic chargers when not in use. Printers, scanners, and other peripherals that are only used occasionally can be unplugged until they’re needed.

These are all small but significant changes that anyone can make.