Step by Step Recycling Guide

What type of waste does your business generate, and how much?

Any designated recyclables that comprises at least 5% of your waste by weight, must be recycled.  Remember that all computers, TVs, lead-acid batteries, tires and white goods must be recycled.  

If necessary, use this worksheet to determine what kind of waste, and how much you generate in pounds or in units in a day, week or month.. This will give you a rough approximation of how much waste your company produces. You can also do a waste audit to involve other employees.  Ask the following questions to help identify specific wastes:

  • Do we have vending machines that sell beverages? (Glass containers, aluminum cans and plastic bottles)
  • Do we have a cafeteria? (Glass containers, aluminum cans and plastic bottles, food waste and oil/grease)
  • Do we subscribe to magazines and/or newspapers?
  • Do we use office paper?
  • Do we ship or receive products on wooden pallets or in cardboard boxes?
  • Do we use steel or metals in manufacturing?
  • Do we have equipment that uses non-alkaline batteries?
  • Do we use fluorescent bulbs?
  • Do we generate biological or industrial waste?


Is there any trash or recycling collection already set up in my building?

If you are a tenant in a commercial building, talk to your building manager.  If trash services are provided, City Ordinance requires your landlord to also provide for recycling collection.  You may discover that your building already has a recycling program that you can tap into. If that is the case, the building manager is responsible for setting up main collection bins, contracting a recycling hauler and informing all tenants about the program. Talk with your building manager or hauler if you have other materials to recycle that are not included in the existing program.

If no recycling program exists in your building, to talk to your neighbors about their waste and plans to recycle. The main advantage of sharing a recycling program is to share costs for hauling and consolidate storage of materials to enable your building to get a better rate for collection. Remember that separating recyclables can control trash costs by reducing dumpster size, weight and collection frequency. 

Where are your recyclables going to go?

Curbside Collection
Got cardboard, paper, glass bottles, aluminum cans and plastic bottles? Set up service with a private hauler licensed to operate in Cambridge.

Small Business with 50 Employees or Less
Consider bringing cardboard, paper, glass bottles, aluminum cans, plastic bottles, fluorescent bulbs, scrap metal, plastic bags, and books to the City's Recycling Center during open hours.

Used Cooking Oil & Food Waste
There are haulers that will collect used cooking oil and grease. Surplus food can also be collected for composting with a private hauler.   Donate surplus food. There are haulers that will collect used cooking oil and grease. Surplus food can also be collected for composting.  

Biotech Waste

Many types of biotech waste can be recycled, such as pipettes, foam products, flasks and chemical bottles. For pipettes in particular, consult the supplier to see if they are willing to take back old pipettes.

Industrial Waste
Certain industrial by-products can be recycled, such as scrap metal, steel, pallets and cardboard. Check out the Massachusetts Materials Exchange where companies can exchange products to minimize waste. 

Where to locate recycling bins?

For paper and cardboard, place a recycling bin within reach of each employee’s desk and next to each printer and photocopier. All bins should be clearly labeled with a list of the types of paper accepted.  More cardboard may be generated at the shipping and loading locations and should be stored there. Most haulers require that cardboard is flattened and this makes storage more efficient.  Decide if a custodian or individual employees are responsible for flattening cardboard. A sign declaring that all cardboard must be flattened should accompany all paper recycling bins.

Most of the glass, metal and plastics will be in the cafeteria and / or near vending machines. Place clearly labeled bins close to all vending machines and also in other central areas to make it convenient for employees. Deposit recycling of bottles and cans should be dealt with separately and taken to redemption centers. All materials should be empty and rinsed before recycling.

The recycling of biotech waste should incorporate various additional procedures such as sterilization as required by the hauler. These extra processes should be built into the waste disposal program as needed.

Deposit all food waste in designated bins. Label a compost bin clearly and place it in close proximity to the source of food waste to be donated to a farm or recycled in-house. All employees should be made aware that extra edible food should be placed in designated bins for food banks and not thrown out.

Build Industrial waste collection directly into the manufacturing process. Collect and preserve by-products in a state that is desirable to the hauler. Make all operations personnel aware of the new process of collection of recyclables.

How to educate and inform employees about your recycling program?

A key element in getting your employees to embrace a recycling program is education. The more people know about how it is going to work and understand what is required from them, the more success you will have. Here are some basic steps:

  • Issue a memo to all employees that raises awareness and encourages participation.  Includes list of what to recycle and where recycling bins are located.  Click here for an example of a memo.

  • Schedule a training session to educate employees on their responsibility to recycle, take questions and ask for feedback.

  • Place posters above recycling bins and around the office to announce the program. Replace if worn or outdated.

  • Create a company recycling committee that will work collaboratively to ensure the program is successfully maintained and adaptable.

How to get custodial staff involved?

  • Successful recycling programs require full support and cooperation from those responsible for the actual collection and possible sorting of recyclables materials. 

  • Involve and inform these individuals from the very beginning. Ask custodians what they think will work best for recycling containers and locations.

  • Discuss the current flow for trash and the best way to integrate recycling to make is easy and efficient.  Remember that recycling programs do not introduce more waste.  It is the same material, just sorted into a different container.

  • Educate custodians so they understand which bins have to remain separate to avoid contamination and/or additional sorting. Click here for an example memo to custodians.


How to maintain a successful recycling program?

Who's in charge?
Programs do best when they are monitored. Establish a committee to answer questions, deal with problems and make improvements or adjustments. Identify someone willing to be the point person for contacting the hauler to request pick ups, make sure picks are done on schedule, or schedule visits to the drop-off center. Depending on the size of your company, this committee should have a representative for upper management, general employees and the custodial staff.   Determine who will track progress and how to find out well the recycling program is working. 

Is it working?
The million dollar question remains: is it working? First, how much recycling is your hauler picking up?  Second, how much less trash is being generated?  These amounts should be tracked and follow a trend of improvement. You can also ask for anecdotal feedback from employees and custodians, or even conduct a quick survey.  Have they noticed a difference? Are people positive about the program?

Keep up the good work
The best way to keep people motivated to keep recycling, is to share good news and show appreciation for their participation. Send out memos and emails, letting employees know that they are making a difference. Publish information on environmental benefits from recycling such as amount of energy, water, trees and pollution saved. A little effort can achieve big results.

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Dept of Public Works

147 Hampshire St
Cambridge MA 02139


Hours of Service

Monday: 8:30am-8pm
Tuesday-Thursday: 8:30am-5pm
Friday: 8:30am-12pm

Recycling Center Hours
Tuesday & Thursday: 4:00pm-7:30pm
Saturday: 9:00am-4:00pm

Ms. Randi Mail
Director of Recycling