Recycling Report & What We Learned

In June 2017 APS started recycling at our company headquarters in Davenport, Iowa.

We set a big goal of recycling 20,000 pounds in our first year—and we promised here on the APS Blog to keep you informed.

We're happy to report that one year in, we've recycled about 24,000 pounds of material, exceeding our goal.

We also learned a few lessons about recycling along the way—and that's the real reason for this post.

We're sharing what we learned because we'd like to offer a hand up to other small businesses—in our local community and beyond—who may be reading our blog and have an interest in recycling.

Here we go!

1. Recycling is easy, but getting started takes some thought and collaboration.

First, we had to spend a little time thinking and talking about waste: What kind of waste was APS creating? How much was there, where did it come from, and where was it going? We gathered information from the office to the production floor. Everyone in the company was involved in the discussion in some way. We made some estimates and called our waste hauler several times. We even contacted Iowa Waste Exchange and our local recycling center for their expertise.

2. Be prepared to make adjustments (AKA use the iterative process).

We started recycling with the idea that we hadn't done it before, so we'd learn by doing. For our company, this approach worked best.

We started out with Recycling Plan A: Our logistics manager would collect flattened cardboard and drop it off at our area recycling center. Aside from cardboard, we have a relatively small amount of mixed office recyclables, such as paper and beverage containers, so we called our waste hauler and had them deliver a recycling cart, similar to the one most US households use, for collecting those. We kept our trash dumpster for garbage.

After just a week or two, however, we realized that Recycling Plan A wasn't going to be our final plan. Not only was loading cardboard to haul it away going to be more of a bother than we realized, but we also underestimated how much would accumulate. And somehow our office recyclables were more voluminous than we imagined. The cart wasn't big enough, even when collected once per week. 

Finally, we noticed that our trash dumpster had become needlessly large. Once we had isolated all our cardboard for recycling and no longer tossed most office materials into the trash, we didn't need such a big dumpster.

It took about two months, but finally we found the right balance.

Our recycling container is now as large as our old trash dumpster was, and it's collected weekly. Our trash dumpster is the smallest size available, and it's never full.

An added bonus: Not only are we recycling more than we originally thought possible, but we're also saving a small amount on our monthly solid waste tab.

3. Tell everyone! Recycling is responsible.

If you start a recycling program, don't keep it a secret! After all, you don't keep other company triumphs a secret, do you?

So share your story. Maybe you'll inspire another small business to recycle. Every little bit helps!