Office Waste Reduction, Recycling & Composting

Many of us spend the majority of our day away from home or in an office. We have created a tip sheet on recycling in the office.

What you can actually recycle is dependent on who is collecting material and whether or not there are markets for the materials. However there are basic items that can be included in your office recycling program.

Paper Aluminum Glass Electronics & Supplies
  • Waste paper: printed paper, folders, used envelopes
  • Unwanted magazines and newspapers
  • Unwanted cardboard boxes
  • Aluminum drink cans
  • Aluminum caps and lids
  • Aluminum foil
  • Metal coated plastic film is not recyclable. Use the scrunch test to check whether these wrappers are made of aluminum foil. If the wrapper springs back when scrunched in the hand it is not aluminum, and hence not recyclable!
  • Soda Bottle
  • Jars
  • Other Glass items (vases, plates etc.)
  • Old computers / printers
  • Printer toner / ink cartridges
  • Cell phones

Recycling Tips

Each area of the work space should be equipped with clearly marked recycling containers or a recycling station.

If you have a kitchen or food service area, you may also include a bin for composting. In some cities it has become mandator. Check to see if there is composting pickup in your area.

Office Space

  • Use deskside recycling containers for convenient paper & can/bottles recycling.
  • Provide uniform design and clearly labeled recycling bins near copiers, shipping and receiving areas, and in employee eating areas to collect white paper, mixed paper, newspaper, magazines, cardboard as well as nonpaper products (glass, aluminum, plastic, etc).
  • Don’t buy paper that is a contaminant in recycling, e.g. thermal fax paper, glossy/plastic coatings, plastic windows, bright colors including goldenrod, laser printer inks, adhesive products.
  • Print directly on envelopes rather than using labels.
  • Use two-way envelopes for billing.
  • Use envelopes without plastic windows. The cellophane contaminates and lowers the grade of paper for recycling.
  • Use computer fax software that doesn’t require paper to send facsimiles. If you have to use paper, use office paper rather than thermal fax paper which is not recyclable.
  • Donate out-of-date stationery to local charitable or environmental groups.


  • Tissue boxes.
  • Cardboard toilet roll cores.
  • Detergent & soap dispensers.
  • If you have showers – used shampoo and shower gel bottles.
  • Aerosol freshener cans. Make sure they are empty.

Kitchen/Food Service Areas

  • Plastic beverage and milk cartons (anchor link).
  • Used cardboard boxes from breakfast cereal and tea bags boxes.
  • Plastic salad and fruit containers marked with symbol 1 PET.
  • Yogurt drinks bottles (not tubs).


It is always a good practice to reduce plastic use but often it is unavoidable. Instead of throwing into the landfill include the following items in your plastic recycling to set-aside for drop-off along with your plastic grocery and ziploc bags:

  • Furniture wrap
  • Electronic wrap
  • Plastic cereal box liners (if it tears like paper, do not include)
  • Case wrap (e.g., snacks, water bottles)
  • Newspaper bags
  • Dry-cleaning bags
  • Bread bags and produce bags
  • Toilet paper, napkin and paper-towel wraps
  • Plastic shipping envelopes
  • All clean bags labeled #2 or #4
recycle logos

Any plastic packaging or bottle marked with these symbols (usually on the bottom of the pack), can be placed into your plastic recycling bin. You can also check with your local recycling collector for a full list of recyclables they accept.


Some Recycling Facts

Aluminum Recycling

Recycling one ton of aluminum:
  • Saves 14,000 kWh of energy
  • Saves 39.6 barrels (1,663 gallons) of oil
  • Saves 237.6 million Btu’s of energy
  • Saves 10 cubic yards of landfill space

Cardboard Recycling

Recycling one ton of cardboard:
  • Saves 390 kWh of energy
  • Saves 1.1 barrels (46 gallons) of oil
  • Saves 6.6 million Btu’s of energy

Glass Recycling

Recycling one ton of glass:

  • Saves 42 kWh of energy
  • Saves 0.12 barrels (5 gallons) of oil
  • Saves 714,286 Btu’s of energy
  • Saves 2 cubic yards of landfill space
  • Saves 7.5 pounds of air pollutants from
    being released

Paper Recycling

Recycling one ton of paper:

  • Saves 4,100 kWh of energy
  • Saves 9 barrels (380 gallons) of oil
  • Saves 54 million Btu’s of energy
  • Saves 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space
  • Saves 60 pounds of air pollutants
    being released
  • Saves 7,000 gallons of water
  • Saves 17 trees

Plastic Recycling

Recycling one ton of plastic:

  • Saves 5,774 kWh energy
  • Saves 16.3 barrels (685 gallons) of oil
  • Saves 98 million Btu’s of energy
  • Saves 30 cubic yards of landfill space

Steel Recycling

Recycling one ton of steel:

  • Saves 642 kWh of energy
  • Saves 1.8 barrels (76 gallons) of oil
  • Saves 10.9 million Btu’s of energy
  • Saves 4 cubic yards of landfill space

Milk & Juice Cartons FAQs

Q. Are milk cartons recyclable?
A. Yes!
The Recycle Carton website provides an informative FAQ page to answer all your questions. Click here.
Milk cartons are recyclable too