Recycle Your Way to a More Lean Workplace March 28 2017

Recycling is one of the most important aspects of the first 5S pillar, Sort. This pillar is dedicated to setting your workspace up for success by clearing away unnecessary or unused items. Part of this process includes organizing your work area to have proper receptacles for disposal, recycling, or reassignment – the last of which is just another form of recycling in itself.

The best Lean environments already incorporate a recycle service in their workplaceOf course, recycling programs are more than just financially friendly. Businesses are being judged on environmental practices more and more, by both consumers and regulators.

Lean practices are founded on the principles of maximum efficiency with minimum time and effort exhausted. The process of creating and implementing an effective recycling system that does not cost any more time is easy; you simply must make a plan first to communicate and execute with your team.

1. Appoint an ambassador. The first thing you must do is find someone to champion your cause. In a 5S workplace, everyone on the team takes on responsibilities beyond their typical job title in order to keep the organizational system flowing. It will be the responsibility of your Eco-Warrior to take the lead on your company's recycling program. They will take the time to plan out your day-to-day recycling practices, as well as be the contact person for your employees to register questions, suggestions, and complaints. One of the most important qualifications of this position should be passion and enthusiasm. As green practices become more mainstream, you will find it easier to find green, lean thinking employees within your organization.

2. Make it a team effort. In many cases, you will find that there is a trial and error period before finding the most efficient lean process for recycling tailored for your workspace. Allowing there to be collaborative time for your team while they are being trained on new recycling programs can give the rest of your team an opportunity to communicate new ideas and perspectives to your Eco-Warrior. After all, no one knows the day-to-day operations on the floor better than the individuals doing those jobs every day. The insights of your employees may prove to be invaluable, and they will feel empowered to be part of the solution.

3. Take baby steps. It is important to remember that the purpose of lean is to simplify and streamline. Instead of trying to overhaul every part of your workplace all at once, start with one small area of the workspace or one with one aspect of recycling. For example, one of the easiest ways for any type of business to save on expenses and their environmental impact is to address their usage of paper. Swapping out the waste basket for a paper recycling basket will save all of the drafts, mistakes, junk mail, and other paper trash from being thrown in a landfill. You can also change your paper buying habits to post-consumer recycled products; this includes all paper products, like paper towels, toilet paper, and water cups at the cooler.

Do you recycle in your workplace? How do you encourage your employees to recycle, too?