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How to Make Less of a Mess (Literally)

How to Make Less of a Mess (Literally)

Amy S. Choi / Business Week

Businesses produce 40% of the garbage in the U.S. Here’s how to clean up your act.

PAPER, GLASS, PLASTIC, ALUMINUM
It starts with the paper cups that hold your morning caffeine fix. Then come the stacks of junk mail, which get added to the old business cards, notebooks, and page after page of outdated sales reports. Each employee typically uses 1.5 pounds of paper every day, only half of which is recycled. If your municipality doesn’t have a curbside recycling program in place, check Earth911 for a list of local private recyclers.

After all that junk’s been recycled, start buying post-consumer. For a list of vendors of recyled products, go to epa.gov/epaoswer/non-hw/procure/database.htm. For recyled paper in bulk, try conservatree.com. More green office supplies, as well those custom-printed with your logo, can be found at the greenoffice.com and sustainablegroup.net.

PRINTERS
Like cats, ink cartridges have many lives – they can be refilled up to four times. Still, roughly 167 million ink cartridges are dumped in landfills annually. Most manufacturers, including Hewlett-Packard, Lexmark, and Xerox, offer free shipping for the return of cartridges. Remanufacturers, which often partner with recyclers, will take newer equipment for refilling and resale. Search Earth911 or the Basel Action Network for local ink and toner cartridge recyclers. Next time, make sure to buy printers and copiers with a long-lasting print drum that requires only toner refills.

FOOD OR OTHER ORGANIC WASTE
Stale croissants from your sales meeting, half-eaten lunches, and science experiments in the staff fridge can create toxic greenhouse gases if added to landfills. Sleek, odorless composters eat up food and even paper scraps, creating a nutrient-rich mix for your office plants. The NatureMill Automatic Indoor Composter, at $299, comes in several colors and is perfect for a small staff. A variety of composters can be found on GreenCulture’s Web site, composters.com. For more info, try the U.S. Composting Council, compostingcouncil.org. Elsewhere in the kitchen, use eco-friendly supplies like utensils and plates made from biodegradable bamboo or bioplastics from retailers such as Green Home, dgs.greenhome.com.

Discussion: Recycling in the Office


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