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Fact Sheets & Summaries > Waste Prevention > [Waste Reduction Tips for the Office]

Waste Reduction Tips for the Office

In 1994, United States residents generated over 209 million tons of municipal solid waste. If current trends continue, by 2010, we will have an additional 70 million tons to manage each year. Approximately one-third of our waste is generated by businesses, such as offices, restaurants, and retail stores. The amount of office waste can be lowered through "source reduction," that is, by using less and thereby reducing the amount of material thrown out every day. The following reduction tips are designed to reduce the amount of office waste that otherwise would have to be recycled, burned, or landfilled.


Reducing Paper Use

Office workers generated 6.8 million tons of office paper throughout the country in 1994. Overall during that year, paper (including cardboard and newspaper) was the single largest component of the municipal waste stream, amounting to 81.3 million tons, or 39 percent of the nation's waste. Office paper was the third largest category of paper wastes generated, after corrugated boxes and newspapers. Office paper increased from 1.7 percent of the waste stream in 1960 to 3.2 percent in 1994, and is projected to be 6.4 percent in 2010, making it one of the fastest-growing categories of waste.

You can reduce the amount of paper used in your office by following these guidelines.

Eliminate unnecessary copies, notes, and memos by:


Use all paper on two sides, whenever possible, by:


Further reduce paper by:


Encourage your office manager to buy:


A single-sided, double-spaced document uses four times as much paper as a double-sided, single-spaced document.


Switching from Disposables to Reusables

Many things used during the work day are designed to be thrown out after one or more uses, such as paper or polystyrene cups, paper towels, typewriter ribbons, pens and pencils. Products that last less than three years, called nondurable goods, comprise 27 percent of the waste stream. Disposables constitute a significant portion of these goods. By using items that can be refilled or reused instead of thrown away, offices will not only help to eliminate unnecessary trash, but can save money. Many of these strategies require changes in current purchasing criteria as well as changes in behavior.


Extending Product Life

While cost is a major consideration in purchasing decisions, product durability, repairability, and length of warranty and service contracts must also be taken into account. A product that lasts 20 years instead of 10 produces half the waste and saves money.


Buying Less Toxic Products

Many products that are used in offices contain toxic materials that can cause problems with waste disposal and can also affect our health. Changing procurement practices to favor less toxic and nontoxic alternatives can significantly improve office environments and reduce the toxicity of the waste stream.


Other Tips for Office Waste Reduction

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