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Make It Easy -- Workplace Programs for Recycling Plastic Bags

Your community has opportunities to make it easier to go green.

Find green business solutions
Ban plastic shopping bags It's all about the "system"!

Wherever people congregate, that community has opportunities to make it easier to go green. If people congregate in the snack room -- supply reusable cups and flatware. If people congregate at the water cooler, use a solar powered water cooler.

And if people congregate in the garage...provide recycling boxes near the elevator and stairs!

A shared system of recycling paper, plastic bags, old clothes, etc. that can be managed by one person or a committee of enthusiasts makes it easy -- and therefore more appealing to busy employees.

Plastic Recycling

Plastic grocery bags, plastic water and soft drink bottles, plastic containers -- plastic is everywhere.

And plastic is now floating out to the ocean and accumulating in the center of the Pacific in such volume that it is endangering the proper function of the ocean biome -- wildife such as birds and fish are eating the bits of plastic, thinking they are food. Plankton is being shielded from sunrays and oxygen production is being affected.

And scientific marine studies are just gaining speed -- we don't know what additional impacts will be identified and measured. In the meantime we know that plastic lasts for centuries, and that plastic is accumulating in the oceans in deadly ways.

Reducing plastic use is moving in the right direction. Common use of this uncommon material is the first place to start. And when recycling is stepped up, product redesign and packaging can be better understood and improved.

Lightweight, Single-Use Plastic Bags

Not only do grocery stores use these bags, but most retail outlets such as fast food shops, liquor stores and general merchandising stores all use lightweight, single use plastic shopping bags.

Recycling programs can be fun as well as effective:

  • Sponsor an annual awards program for creativity and impact
  • Recognize community groups, schools, councils, and businesses for their achievements
  • Set up systems to go "plastic bag free"
  • Set up systems to "reduce plastic bag use"
  • Give visibility to role models who lead the way with creativity and practical solutions
  • Make free information available to employees and the public
  • Provide assistance to trade groups, teams, etc. to order cost-effective plastic bag alternatives.
  • Help craft plastic bag reduction messages and crate local PR
  • Provide RECYCLED-content containers to collect plastic bags -- and print motivational recyling messages on them.
  • Help advocacy groups apply for grants to spread good ideas and effective programs.
  • Use recycled content in YOUR PRODUCTS!

Messages for Plastic Initiatives

Crafting the right message is the first step toward success. Here are some messages that you can choose from -- but keep it simple! Baby steps come first!

  • Avoid unnecessary use of bags. Use your hands!
  • Focus on reduction and reusables -- not replacement.
  • Avoid, reduce, reuse is good for your business.
  • Target reduction -- set aggressive goals.
  • Focus on critical success factors -- such as convenience!

The Waste Hierachy is:
Avoid > Reduce > Reuse > Recycling

Reduction of waste just makes good sense -- not only for the air we breathe, but for a business's bottom line. Waste has always eaten at the bottom line -- and today, with shortages in raw materials looming, it is even more important to conquer employee waste.

Waste has become systematized -- (that word again!) and the green initiative is about rethinking those systems. And replacing them with green, sustainable systems that are smarter for productivity, for health and for business sustainability.

Reduction and reusables are good for your business. Reduction can drive costs down. Reusables provide an opportunity to gain a margin and increase sales. And together, reduction and reusables can improve your bottom line.

Business Strategies

Nothing happens without vision -- so management and organizational commitment to a better plastics strategy must come first.

Some strategies to consider:

  • Go bag free
  • Charge for bags (both plastic and paper)
  • Set reduction targets (no bag provided for purchase of 3 items or less)
  • Support reusable bags
Staff training and customer support and communication are fertilizer to your improving green system. Ask for support and committment -- and take a stand. An inclusive strategy can build success.

Ask your staff for input about how to refine customer service policies -- they are on the front line and can provide realistic ideas. For example:

  • Ask all customers if they need a bag.
  • Praise customers who bring their own bags. Smiles get attention!
  • Prepare your customers -- give them notice of your changes.
  • Inform customers of the bag options available in the store
  • Encourage customers to bring their own reusable bags, baskets or trolleys.

Fun activities could be craft projects to decorate reusable bags -- or contests to recognize creative solutions and decorative results.

There is a window of opportunity for good PR about new initiatives. Being innovative, being early, being creative all provide opportunities that being late, last and slow just don't provide. The cost of compliance is higher than one thinks -- loss of opportunity is part of late adoption.

PROBLEM: Plastic is cheap, it never degrades and it is accumulating to impact our environment.

SOLUTION: Reduce use and availability of plastic bags. Encourage alternatives and make convenient system available.

Edited by Carolyn Allen
| green marketing | packaging |


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