Zero Waste

Zero Waste

The Stellaria Building community of tenants practice zero waste; we continually look for alternate ways to re-purpose our waste rather than sending it to the landfill. A shared waste management system that goes far beyond commingle recycling is available for all tenants to learn, use, and improve according to their needs. Aside from commingle and landfill, our system includes organic waste composting and recycling of items which are not standard commingle items, such as plastic bags, light bulbs and batteries. By sharing our experience and information, we hope to support and inspire you to improve your own systems. Each one of us as individuals and as businesses, can make a difference.

Location, Location, Location!

What you see here may not fully apply to your area. We are located in Lane County, where we are blessed with several businesses whose mission it is to reduce landfill waste. Even if you discover equivalents in your area, it is important to check with them and your local commingle hauler about what items they accept, and what preparations may be required. This is especially important for your commingle recycling, as it is often sorted by a machine that uses the shape of items to determine which recycle stream they belong in. For example, the machine that sorts our commingle puts flat things in with paper and tubs, jugs, bottles and jars in with plastics. That means we must flatten -not crumple- paper, leave plastic containers uncrushed and remove their lids. If too much plastic gets into a batch of paper recycling because it wasn't the correct shape, the whole batch has to be thrown out. So start by finding out what can be recycled in your area, and how it must be prepared.

User Friendly Signage

Color coded containers and signs go a long way to help people put their items in the correct bin. Below are several of the signs we use here at Stellaria. You are welcome to download them and use them at your facility, but please remember to check with your local recyclers first (see Location info above). If they have different requirements, then please use our signs only as examples to help you create your own.

Another reason to create your own signs is that your business has different waste streams than ours, and making the system specific to your needs will maximize its effectiveness.

Explanatory Signs

Simple Bin Label Signs

  • Commingle / Other Plastics / Brown Paper Towels - Download
  • Landfill / Glass / Compost - Download
  • Other Metals - Download

Notes: Laminating the signs lengthens their lifespans. The "Other Plastics" and "Other Metals" are recyclable plastics and metals that cannot go in commingle recycling. "Brown Paper Towels" are for composting; these signs are on bins near hand washing stations.

More signs below...

Smaller Waste Streams

We have several different types of businesses here at the Stellaria Building, and each has its own unique waste streams. In an effort to redirect as much as possible from the landfill, we created this collection center for smaller waste streams such as light bulbs and ink cartridges.

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Each door is on hinges and a 5 gallon pail underneath collects the items. The signs on each door indicate what is collected there, and what we do with the items once the pail is full. We have found it useful to include an "Unsure" area as well, a place where people can put items that they believe may be recyclable or reusable, but they're not quite sure. We ask people to attach a note with their contact information so we can get back to them with the answer. Most of these items require delivery or shipment to a recycler or business that will reuse the items.

You can download our signs here, and customize them with the information for disposal in your area.

There is also a receptacle for reusable items, and there's great stuff in there all the time!

One resource for giving some of your smaller waste streams a new life is TerraCycle.net, whose mission is to collect previously non-recyclable or hard-to-recycle items and use them to manufacture new products.

Note: The Electronics sign says "Please Label" since there are sometimes significant costs associated with recycling electronics. In a system shared by several businesses like ours, management may want to recoup the cost of recycling items like these.

Education & Training

In order for your system to be successful, the users need to know how to use it... and let's face it, they're not all going to read those signs you worked so hard on. Besides, the signs can only convey the what, and other details such as the why are often what helps us remember things. We suggest you include education and training as part of your system. What has worked well for us is to have a portion of our all company meetings dedicated towards this once or twice a year. In addition, it's important to introduce new employees to the system as they come on.

Another thing that has worked really well for us is to have a few experts on our staff, people who have received some training and instruction about the local recycling systems and resources. These people can lead the training section of the all company meetings, and they can serve as point people on a daily basis for questions as they arise. Our experts were trained at Lane County's Master Recycler Program. This program is available in several other Oregon counties; if you are in a county with a Master Recycler program, consider asking some of your staff to take the course. Another option is asking the program Coordinator for a Master Recycler volunteer to help you implement your system and /or train your employees.