Thomas Bean is our sustainability guru here at PalletOne. He is knowledgeable and passionate about recycling–he’s spent more than 10 years setting up recycling and reuse programs at all different types of manufacturing plants. He now shares his expertise on green practices with our plants and with our customers, helping them develop their own programs.
Here are Thomas’ tips for setting up a recycling program in your plant.
- Get a real commitment from senior management.
Your top managers have to believe in a recycling program. It’s not enough to start a program so that you can wave the green flag or save money. A recycling program will fail down the road unless your company leaders are truly committed to sustainability and serious about making it work in your plant.
- Identify a program champion.
Find the high-energy person in your plant to head your recycling efforts. She or he is the one who is always willing to jump in and do whatever’s necessary to get something accomplished. It doesn’t have to be a supervisor or a plant manager; it can be the forklift driver or the maintenance person. What you want is the person who will push the program and make it happen.
- Form a diverse team.
You only need about five to 10 people on your recycling (or sustainability) team. But it’s critical to have people on that team representing all the different business units, from the forklift operator on the plant floor to the people doing maintenance, purchasing, customer service, operating machines, etc. They will bring their different experiences and their unique perspectives that will be essential in implementing and continually improving your recycling program.
- Change the culture.
Make sure that your people understand what sustainability is and how their job fits into the bigger picture. Educate them in the vocabulary of the materials they’re using to do their jobs. Instead of saying something is made from fabric, for example, use more exact and descriptive terms like cotton or polycotton or polypropylene. Explain how the specific fabric scraps they deal with get recycled and how those recycled materials can be turned into something that they use every day. If you have non-English speakers on the job, translate this information into their languages.
As the vocabulary of sustainable practices becomes ingrained in your culture, people will see the larger picture and be more creative in coming up with ways that they can apply its principles in their own jobs.
- Make recycling easy.
Place recycling collection bins close by each job area. If you want people to recycle the shrink wrap they put on or remove from pallets, put the collection container right where they work, not over in the next room. Don’t make them take extra steps or give them any excuse not to recycle.
Integrate recycling into your plant’s existing processes to make things easier for the people who will be doing the recycling. Your program will be more successful in the long term when recycling isn’t something extra, but just another part of the job.