Setting Up a Recycling Program At Your Small Business

Overwhelmed with paper


Getting Started

What to Recycle




Did You Know...

Each CT resident generates 5 pounds of trash each day at work, home and school.
~ CT DEEP 2003 Data

Nationwide, research has indicated that offices with fewer than 50 employees generate nearly 40% of discarded printing and writing paper 
~ Resource Recycling, November 1994

Connecticut small businesses generate approximately 15,678 tons/year of high grade white office paper (HGWOP) and 72,000 tons/year of old corrugated cardboard (OCC). ~ U.S. EPA

Whether you are looking to learn how to set up a recycling program at your business because you want to do the right thing or because it’s the law – recycling is easier than you think!

State recycling requirements apply to everyone in Connecticut, including the small business owner. If all of the 74,264 small businesses did their part by recycling – we would burn less waste, reduce pollutants in our environment, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and conserve natural resources.  Do your part and take responsibility for your business’ waste!

Getting Started Recycling

What does YOUR trash look like?   First you need to know what type of waste you generate. To understand what types of waste you generate you should conduct a "waste assessment". This could entail simply looking at the trash in your barrels and dumpster or if your waste stream is more complex, developing a plan or system to understand the types and amounts of different parts of your waste ‘stream’ and where they are generated.

Resources for conducting your own audit/learning more about the composition of your waste stream:

Recycling Makes Sen$e  (Northeast Recycling Council - NERC)

How to Conduct a Waste Audit (Honolulu Department of Environmental Services)

Which Materials Should You Reduce, Reuse and Recycle?

All Businesses Are Required to Recycle:

High Grade White Office Paper (HGWOP) White copy paper, computer paper, office stationery, memo paper etc.

Old Corrugated Cardboard (OCC)
Old or discarded corrugated boxes – Not waxed

Old Newspaper (ONP) Used or discarded newspapers

Glass & Metal Food Containers Deposit and non deposit bottles and cans from beverages and food

Leaves Foliage which has fallen from trees must be composted.

Waste (Used) Oil Used crankcase oil from internal combustion engines

Lead Acid Storage Batteries Used batteries from cars, airplanes, boats, tractors, etc.

Scrap Metal Used or discarded items which consist predominantly of metals such as iron, aluminum, brass, copper, lead, chromium, tin, nickel, etc. or alloys of these metals, including but not limited to appliances

Rechargeable Batteries Nickel-cadmium (NiCd) rechargeable batteries, both those contained within appliances and those sold individually are required to be recycled after they no longer are usable.

Grass Clippings Best practice is to recycle grass by leaving grass clippings on the lawn.

In addition to the state mandated recyclables listed above, check your local ordinances that may require additional materials to be recycled.  These may include: paper beverage containers (such as milk cartons and aseptic juice packages); old magazines (OMG); plastic food containers such as PETE (#1) and HDPE (#2). Contact your local municipal recycling coordinator.

Once you begin to understand your waste stream or the types of waste you generate, you can develop a system that reduces that waste and recovers and/or diverts materials for reuse or recycling.  Learn aboutReUse Centers and Materials Exchanges for reuse markets. 

What do you generate most? Start here – with the largest sector of your waste stream. For most offices, the place to start is with paper. But depending on your business, you may generate mostly scrap metal. By reviewing waste reduction strategies and reuse options, you may be able to reduce the amount of materials you generate even before you collect them for recycling!

Mandated Materials. Some of these materials will most likely be what you generate most. You may not generate a lot of the mandated materials, but you still need to collect them for recycling.

Most Toxic. In addition to large quantities of specific types of material in your trash, or mandated materials, an assessment of your trash will also identify products your business uses that might be toxic or hazardous. This is a good time to review proper disposal techniques and whether there are less toxic alternatives. Depending on how much you generate, you fall into a different category on how you should dispose of the hazardous materials. Determine your Hazardous Waste Generator Category. Learn more about less toxic products in the work place from Pollution Prevention (P2).

How Do You Collect the Materials?  Who Will Take Your Stuff?

Next you need to identify a way to have the materials brought to a recycling facility. This requires creativity!

Scenario:  If you generate large amounts of a particular recyclable (white paper or mixed paper), economies of scale will make it easy for you to find a hauler to pick-up and recycle it, OR you could self-haul to a recycling facility or end market.  However, even if you generate small quantities of the designated recyclables check with your hauler to learn if they can offer a cost-effective way for you to recycle.

Scenario:  If your hauler cannot set-up a cost-effective recycling program, check with your municipal recycling coordinator to see if your town has a recycling drop-off site or some other program to help the small businesses in your town recycle.  Some towns may provide collection services for small businesses.

Scenario:  An effective way to collect small amounts of materials is to get together with other businesses in town. Contact your neighboring businesses, Chamber of Commerce or other business association to establish convenient, low cost, small business recycling options such as establishing recycling drop-off sites in convenient-to-use areas (places normally visited or traveled-by on a regular basis - i.e. banks, town hall, etc.). 

Scenario:  Another way to join forces with other small businesses is to create a recycling cooperative. A small business recycling cooperative can:

  • Take advantage of economies of scale and lower each member's costs associated with collection, storage, and processing and marketed of recyclables;
  • Enhance the visibility of recycling in the eyes of the community and increase participation in recycling efforts; and
  • Achieve greater leverage in the recyclables market place, which strengthens the market price for the recyclable materials collected by the cooperative.

Tips to Save Money

Take economic advantage of the decreased amounts of trash that will need to be picked-up for disposal.  Once you have implemented a successful recycling program, you will be generating less garbage for disposal. Can you adjust your trash pick-up program?  Reduce the size of your trash container and/or frequency of trash pick-up?


If you have further questions, please contact the DEEP Recycling Program at 860-424-3023.

Thanks for doing your part to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

Content Last Updated June 2021