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Useful Guide to Tackling Paper and Cardboard Waste in the Office

  • By George Rebstrum
  • Published 06/1/2012

Most businesses generate large volumes of paper and cardboard waste. With the Government getting stringent on recycling to reduce landfill costs and reach carbon footprint targets, now has never been a better time to tackle this type of waste in the workplace.

The following guide will provide easy to follow tips on minimising the paper and cardboard your business uses, as well as helpful recycling advice for waste of this variety.

How to Reduce Cardboard and Paper Waste in the Office

The first thing every business needs to consider is how to reduce the amount of cardboard and paper waste they generate in the first place. By minimising the amount of paper and cardboard used, your company will not only save money on purchases but also on the ever increasing waste collection and landfill fees. Here are some top tips to follow:

    · Be thrifty – consider buying recycled paper as much as possible and only buy what you need.

    · Think before you throw – ask employees to be vigilant about the cardboard and paper they bin. They should always re-use it if they can, such as printing on both sides of the paper or using the blank side of used paper for making lists and taking notes.

    · Eco-friendly emails – use email rather than sending letters whenever possible.

    · Print with caution – ask staff not to print out emails and other correspondence unless they absolutely need to (it’s also a good idea to encourage others not to print out their emails by having a polite note asking them not to at the bottom of emails) and set a limit on the amount of printed drafts needed in meetings.

    · Backup files – by backing up work in computer files regularly, employees won’t feel the need to have to print out a hard copy.

    · Electronic faxing – send faxes from PCs instead of printing a copy to put in the fax machine. This also saves time.

Clarifying Cardboard and Paper That’s Suitable for Recycling

One of the main ways to recycle cardboard and paper is to have a clear disposal scheme in place so that employees know what to put in the normal rubbish and what to put in the recycling bin. Here is the main list of the dos and don’ts:

Yes – Place in Recycling Bin

    · Mail and envelopes

    · White, coloured and glossy paper (can include staples)

    · Newspapers, magazines and catalogues

    · Wrapping paper (remove ribbon and tape)

    · Phone books and soft-cover books

    · Paper bags

    · Food boxes (remove inside and outside plastic wrappers)

    · Cardboard egg cartons and trays

    · Smooth cardboard (e.g. shoe boxes, tubes from paper towel and toilet paper rolls, product packaging)

    · Corrugated cardboard (always flatten boxes so that you’re not paying collection costs for fresh air, and if they’re large place them next to the recycling bin)

No – Place in Normal Rubbish Bin

    · Heavily soiled paper

    · Soiled paper cups or plates

    · Notebooks with metal spiral bindings

    · Hardcover books (you can always remove the cover to make it recyclable)

    · Used napkins, paper towels or tissues

    · Plastic- or wax-coated paper or cardboard (e.g. candy wrappers, take-out containers)

Paper and Cardboard Recycling Tips

In addition to separating recyclable from non-recyclable cardboard and paper, you might be surprised how a few additional easy measures can go a long way in making your workplace eco-friendly. Here are some helpful tips to boost your office recycling scheme when it comes to this type of waste in the workplace:

Enthusiasm is Key

Ensure all employees are fully aware of the need to reduce paper and cardboard use by emailing them the tips listed above and explaining that the business is serious about boosting its Green credentials, along with outlining the benefits this will bring. It’s also a good idea to set targets with incentives and email a monthly internal newsletter describing the recycling progress that’s been achieved and asking for valuable feedback so that improvements can be made such as bins in new areas. What will further help is to appoint a staff member in each office department to monitor paper and cardboard recycling, report back to senior management and further incentivise staff.

Recycling Bins on Hand

It’s important to ensure there are numerous dedicated paper recycling containers spread throughout the office. This includes desk top trays for those who are either very busy or very lazy. How many will of course depend on the volume of cardboard and paper waste your business generates and the frequency of collections, however the general yardstick is to have one bin for every four to eight staff members. Also place extra bins near photocopiers, fax machines, printers and the coffee machine.


With thriftier use of office materials as well as a little bit of extra effort when it comes to paper and cardboard recycling, your business can enjoy significant cost savings as well as do its bit for the environment.

About the Author: George Rebstrum is an independent consultant on cardboard recycling.



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