Waste Reduction at Work: Break Room Bliss

break room trash stationWhen the phone doesn’t stop ringing or work just keeps piling on your desk, the office’s break room is a place that employees can go to “get away from it all,” even if it’s only for 15 minutes to an hour. From reading the newspaper to eating lunch, the break room is an area that has a lot of potential for reducing waste that goes into our landfill.

To reduce waste, your office’s break room should at a minimum have:

  • Separate containers for trash, recycling, and, if your office participates in our compost service program, food waste. Ideally, these containers should be green, blue, and gray respectively to help employees differentiate. Otherwise, make sure to label each container clearly.
  • Posters/guides to help employees know what goes into each container. Recycling markets vary and different material can be recycled in different cities. Make sure your posters and guides are current and reflect everything that is being accepted today here in Kirkland. (Get a free set of posters from us! Email recycle@kirklandwa.gov.)

Go the extra mile! Make your break room ultra low-waste:

City Hall staff wash their reusable dishes instead of using disposable ones.

City Hall staff wash their reusable dishes instead of using disposable ones.

Durable dishes/utensils/glasses

Investing in a set of quality dishes, drinking glasses/mugs, and utensils eliminates the need to buy or provide disposables that end up in the landfill after only one use.

Grocery plastic bag collection point

Clean and dry plastic bags are accepted in the recycling bin as long as they’re all bundled together in one plastic bag and tied tightly. But, since plastic bags are made from non-renewable oil, it’s best to reuse them as much as possible before sending them off to the Recycling Center. Provide a place in your break room (such as a drawer or a grocery bag dispenser) where people can put and find bags for reuse.

Reusable shopping bags

Someone in the office usually ends up needing to run errands for the office to buy something, whether it’s food for an office party or last-minute supplies for a project. If your brand-spanking new grocery bag dispenser starts overflowing after a week, consider taking the next step and help employees start using reusable shopping bags. Place these in a convenient location so that they will be used.

Magazine/newspaper display rack

There’s always at least one employee who still subscribes to printed periodicals such as newspapers and magazines. At one of my workplaces, my colleagues bring in magazines that they’ve finished reading at home and leave them in the break room for others to peruse through. Celebrity gossip, anyone?

What have you done to your break room to make it easier for employees to reduce waste?