By Bridget Callahan, Research & Program Specialist, PLASTICS

Paper. Coffee cups. Snack wrappers. To-go containers. Lunches. Cardboard boxes. More paper.

A lot gets thrown away at offices around the country. Much of it is recyclable and some of it might not be, but the only way to find out is to get your hands dirty auditing and sorting the office’s garbage. Once you establish a baseline, then you and your company can begin to take steps to increase recycling and eliminate waste.

Sustainability is an integral part of the Plastics Industry Association’s (PLASTICS) mission, and not just in the industry we serve. The employees of PLASTICS have decided to drive further with their sustainability journey at their headquarters in Washington, DC.

On November 30, 2016, five PLASTICS’ employees ventured to the loading dock of their K Street building to learn how well the office employees follow the already-established recycling initiatives. The sort began with categorizing items put in the office’s trashcans and recycle bins. The categories included food waste, mixed paper, single-use plastics (to go containers, coffee stirrers, plastic utensils, etc.) and five others. Once all 40 lbs. of waste were sorted, each category of waste product was weighed and recorded.


The recorded weights were then used to find the office’s diversion rate, which is the percentage of waste that doesn’t go to the landfill, meaning it gets recycled or is processed through some other avenue of diversion.

The first waste sort was successful and found that we recycle 72% of the waste generated in the office. With a baseline established, the Green Team’s next tasks will be to increase signage around the office, informing employees of the programs already in place and finding new opportunities for diversion and reduction to increase the office diversion rate. Our goal is to reach 90% recovery by this time next year.

Beginning the journey to zero net waste cannot be successful without the support of every member of the office, and the employees at PLASTICS, led by the Green Team, are all onboard. Ever since December 6, everyone here has been extra conscious of using our new name, the Plastics Industry Association; hopefully, with the new name comes a new awareness among employees of how they’re handling their waste. Together, we can reach that 90 % goal, and your office can too.

If your office, facility or corporation is interested in starting the Zero Net Waste Program, please visit the Zero Net Waste webpage for more information about starting the program. Once your office, facility or corporation has completed the two-step qualification process, you will receive a newly completed toolkit that will help you tell your zero net waste story!