California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle)

Business Waste Reduction

Contracts for Recycling Services in Office Buildings


This fact sheet provides general information and options to consider when forming recycling collection services contracts. In many offices, recycling collection is still a relatively new service compared to waste collection. Consequently, businesses and government agencies are still learning what works for recycling pickup. The experts are those who have hammered out the contracts, wished they had included things they didn't, and edited them for next time. Examples of contracts negotiated by staff in both business and government are available and described in Part III.

The following information is organized in three parts:

We suggest you read Parts I and II, then select from Part III the sample contract(s) you feel best meet your needs, then order it (them) from the contact person listed. The information is updated periodically.

Additional information and copies of this fact sheet are available from CalRecycle Publications Clearinghouse at (800) CA-Waste or on line at CalRecycle Publications, or via e-mail at

I. Where to Start and What Issues to Consider in Drafting Contracts

The goal of drafting a contract is to bring to the appropriate decision makers in your company or agency a well-thought-out, written proposal that considers practical, logistical, and legal issues.

A. Start With Your Existing Waste Hauler Contract

This fact sheet focuses on issues that are unique to recycling collection. There are many other aspects of your contract that are the same for recycling as trash pickup. Use your hauler contract as a resource for language that is common to both types of pickup.

B. Written Proposal to Decision Makers

Make it simple and straightforward. Include an executive summary and helpful visuals such as a materials flow chart, a list of equipment costs by item and container type, a diagram of the outdoor storage area, a matrix analyzing health and safety issues (separating mandatory from recommended actions), and pertinent laws (e.g., State Fire Marshal). Include some graphics that show an analysis of waste generated vs. recycled, emphasizing the large percentage of paper waste in offices.

C. Legal Issues

Because these agreements are bona fide contracts under California law, utilize the services of an attorney to finalize them. However, since many attorneys are not experts on recycling collection issues, we suggest you explore and resolve the issues in the following Section D. before bringing your contract to your attorney in draft form.

D. Key Questions to Ask Yourself

Ask yourself the following questions in drafting your contract. They are by no means all-inclusive:

1. What Will Be Collected?

The recyclables you collect should depend on their salability in local markets and the volume generated at the work site. For example, the CalRecycle contracts for collection of eight grades of paper, (including cardboard, newsprint, and magazines), and glass, plastic, and aluminum beverage containers. (Note that the CalRecycle's program is exemplary and many offices may not be able to recycle as many materials). The best way to determine what will work best is to do a waste assessment and pilot program. Find out what you throw away, propose a recycling plan, then live with it for awhile. Eliminate those recyclables that seem impractical to collect and keep or expand those that work well.

2. How Will It Flow?

Recyclables typically flow from a point of origin to central indoor containers, then to large outdoor containers for pickup by a hauler. The overall recycling flow is influenced by many other issues, including the following:

  • Containers. CalRecycle uses cardboard desktop containers for separation of paper at each work site. Central containers are provided for all recyclables except corrugated cardboard (which is folded and neatly stacked next to other recycling containers). Progressive companies have expressed their commitment to recycling in a very practical way, by reversing the positions of trash cans and recycling bins. Recycling receptacles are available at each work station and trash cans are centralized. In this setup, there is more incentive to recycle because it's easier. If you use this approach, however, be aware that it requires more employee orientation. If trash is thrown into recycling bins, you will contaminate your recycling and receive less money for it.
  • Hauler needs. In contrast to waste collection, you may have to work with several different recycling collectors for various grades of paper, aluminum cans, magazines, and so on. Will your centralized collection setup and your contract work for all of them?

3. What Equipment is Needed and Who Will Provide It?

Different types of containers will be needed, including desktop containers and central containers that are easily differentiated for the various recyclables collected. Container size must take into account the size and volume of recyclables. Mobile collection carts may be needed to transport recyclables from central indoor containers to central outdoor containers. Be sure to have highly visible signs to identify which type of recyclables go into each container.

4. Storage and Maintenance.

Some high-value recyclables, such as aluminum beverage containers and computer printout paper, may need to be locked up to deter theft. If your work site is far from the markets where these materials are ultimately taken, you may also need to store them between less frequent pickups. Besides resolving the issue of locked containers and who gets keys, it is critical to define regular maintenance of the storage area and its contents and who is responsible for doing it, e.g., the lessor or the lessee.

Type of enclosure is also an issue. Sometimes enclosures with open tops tempt people to throw things over the top of the enclosure, and they usually assume it is the garbage, not recycling, that they're aiming for--again, a possible contamination (and perhaps a litter) issue.

Here's an example of a creative storage solution. CalRecycle modified a bicycle storage structure to serve as a storage area for recyclables. It easily accommodates one 3-yd dumpster, two 2-yd dumpsters, and three 95-gal containers. It has automated night lighting, a wide, steel-panel, double door with key lock and cane bolts for easy hauler access. The door key does not open any other doors on the property. Keys are limited to employees directly involved in doing business with the recyclers and the recyclers themselves.

5. Who Does the Work?

Identify who will remove recyclables from central indoor containers to the outdoor storage area, who will empty and clean central containers, and at what frequency. Frequency of cleaning can be a critical issue with beverage containers and other recyclables that can be messy, draw pests, etc. Does the lessor have any prohibitions or requirements about pickups? Identify who is responsible for potential damage to floors, walls, doors, etc.

6. Revenue.

Some recyclables will make money. In other cases, there will be no revenue generated, but the sale of the recyclables should offset collection costs. What will you do with revenue generated? Revenue may be used to underwrite activities such as a formal waste reduction campaign complete with slogans and awards to motivate employees to use resources efficiently. Some companies donate revenue generated from recyclables to worthy causes or donate certain recyclables to a drop-off recycler (because there isn't a high enough volume to pay for pickup). Others donate reusables, such as old books, to nonprofit groups or schools.

7. Health and Safety Concerns.

Consider the many ways recycling impacts the health and safety of people around them.

  • Do not impede or block exit corridors or hallways with containers. Factor in minimum hallway clearance and fire safety requirements.
  • Post the following:
  1. A phone number on each central container with instructions on how to get it serviced.
  2. Safe lifting notices for haulers hoisting containers over a set weight (e.g., 40 lb.).
  3. The length of time food or beverage container bins may hold food and the frequency containers must be cleaned.
  4. Container height limits and how many may be stacked when empty and full.
  5. Procedures for carpet and furniture protection in moving receptacles indoors.

E. Additional Program Issues

1. Training and monitoring.

Office recycling programs need oversight--not just daily monitoring, such as checking for overflowing containers--but constant reassessment for long-term impacts. Impacts include:
  • Changes in waste stream composition.
  • Contaminants.
  • Hauler and market requirements.
  • Changes in staff.

Determine who will carry out this activity. This person will need to periodically review central containers for contaminants and employee trash cans for inappropriate disposal of recyclables. Training must be provided periodically by a designated person or staff to review and update employees on program participation. Include the training as part of your new employee orientation program.

2. How to Promote.

Successful recycling programs include periodic promotional efforts to maintain and improve employee participation. Some ideas include vivid posters or flyers illustrating contaminants, the amount of waste generated compared to what is recycled, the quantity of energy and water saved, revenue received, and money saved. Other promotional strategies are employee newsletter articles, all-staff memos, periodic announcements of major changes in the program, and word-of-mouth communication using a network of employee recycling monitors. Kick-off events or annual recycling program celebrations, such as Earth Day, have been effective at many businesses.

3. Other Tenants.

Recycling programs in large buildings or building complexes tend to start with an anchor business-a major business in the building or complex that spearheads the project. In multitenant buildings, however, recycling works best if the tenants commingle their recyclables for efficient removal by a minimum number of haulers. This reduces hauler labor and transportation costs. It also opens the door to negotiation for hauling some recyclables with comparatively low market value, such as news, corrugated containers, mixed paper, book stock and magazines.

F. Shop Around

Sometimes your waste hauler offers recycling services as well. While this is sometimes the best choice, you may find a better deal elsewhere. Check into other recyclers in your area. Sometimes nonprofit agencies such as sheltered workshops for the handicapped offer low-cost recycling pickup or an opportunity to donate recyclables to a good cause that also benefits the community and your business as a tax write-off. Be sure that you negotiate the best deal. In the best of all possible worlds, you should get paid for your recyclables and collection containers would be provided by the recycler. Consider asking for payment by weight in the case of partially filled bins. All aspects of the contract are negotiable. Give and take in specific areas may result in the best contract overall. Unless you resolve these issues for yourself prior to negotiating, you will not have determined your own priorities and may be at a disadvantage when bargaining.

II. Specifics to Consider in the Contract Itself

These are some features from CalRecycle's recycling collection contract we recommend you consider:

A. What Happens to the Materials

Ensure all recyclables are, in fact, recycled and manufactured into usable products.

B. Pickup Sites

It is recommended that the specific office pickup sites be stated explicitly with any provisos, e.g., offices may be added or deleted with agreement of contractor without affecting price, term, or conditions of the contract.

C. Costs for Pickup

Will all the expense of pickup and loading be assumed by the contractor?

D. Preparation for Pickup

Will recyclables be picked up as is? If not, state how they must be prepared (e.g., in contractor's bulk containers or corrugated cartons clearly marked "FOR RECYCLING" of sufficient strength not to break open, and/or placed on pallets).

E. Pickup Point at Site

State where most pickups can be made once the hauler reaches the site, e.g., from dock or street level , or any other information that specifies the pickup point.

F. Response Rate

Specify a response rate, e.g., pickups within one workday after request, except where stated otherwise in the contract.

G. Type and Amount of Material

Identify amount (in pounds or however you agree to measure in the contract) and type of material picked up on all pickup slips. Be specific-for example, white ledger paper, mixed paper, magazines, news, CRV glass, etc. Different types of recyclables are paid at different rates, and this is the only way the customer can track and account for getting the agreed-upon services.

H. Minimum Size of Pickup

Specify minimum pickup, e.g., 400 lbs. per location, and state "unless the contractor agrees to accept a smaller quantity." Note any special conditions on weight slips (e.g., must be issued by an unaffiliated weighmaster, currently certified by the appropriate State agency). Specify any paperwork by form number, who receives it, and exactly what the contractor's trucker or driver is expected to record about the pickup and any other terms of documentation. A pickup receipt should be left with the office manager.

I. Liabilities and Losses

Include provisions to hold your company harmless for loss or damage by the contractor in connection with pickup and to hold the contractor responsible for collecting recyclables in an efficient, safe, and competent manner. Address issues of caution in loading and handling to prevent loss. Indicate who shall provide collection containers of appropriate size and configuration for each location. State who has to approve them and how they must be presented and maintained throughout the contract period. Address who is responsible for damage or loss to containers. State how you want recyclables secured in transit and storage.

J. Definition of Paper Grades or Other Distinctions Between the Same Commodity Types

Due to the vast difference in prices received for different grades of paper, the CalRecycle contract defines and requires separation of the following paper types: computer printout, sorted white ledger, sorted colored ledger, shredded baled mixed ledger, mixed paper, corrugated containers, baled corrugated containers, news, and book stock. Contaminants must not exceed 5 percent of total volume and are also specifically stated, e.g., slick or coated paper, garbage, slick magazines, cellophane tape, goldenrod paper, all plastic, adhesives, string, and rubber bands. There may be similar reasons for distinguishing different types of other recyclables, such as plastics, in some locales, according to market conditions.

Specify how mixed grades in one container by more than 5 percent volume will be considered (e.g., the lower quality grade will be the basis for payment). Indicate if the contractor must notify your office prior to disposal if the load will be downgraded, and if so, is there a break-off point (e.g., colored ledger or lower). If you want the right to inspect the paper prior to disposal, reserve it and a time frame, e.g., one work day (and define it specifically).

K. Basis for Payment

State on what basis the prices paid for recyclables under this contract will be paid, e.g., paper based on mill prices established by mill invoices supplied by the contractor. Enumerate what is required on invoices and how prices paid to your business or agency shall be determined. Be as specific as possible. Note that the costs associated with the contractor's collection and handling of recyclable materials rest with the contractor. Include any right to review records and expectations on preserving them. Specify what is considered appropriate documentation for price verification. Give instructions for submitting payments--when (day of the month), what period is covered, what is considered timely (postmark, receipt, delivery time of day), how to make out checks, etc. State mailing address, and specify the necessary attachments and enclosures for verification.

III. Sample Contracts Available from CalRecycle

A. Contract Between a Business and a Waste Recycler to Pick Up Recyclable Material from an Office

  • Note: This sample contract is not a formal CalRecycle publication and is provided for sample purposes only. (MS Word, 32 KB | PDF, 51 KB)

B. Contract Between a State Agency and a Waste Recycler to Pick Up Recyclable Material from an Office

  • Note: This sample contract is not a formal CalRecycle publication and is provided for sample purposes only. (MS Word, 230 KB | PDF, 531 KB)

There are businesses that specialize in setting up complete recycling programs in office buildings. CalRecycle is working with specialty contractors on several model green building projects throughout California. Information is available on the success of these programs in recycling and buying recycled products while reducing costs. Although CalRecycle does not endorse or recommend any specific full-service recycling company, a partial list of these companies is available.

NOTE: This fact sheet is intended to provide general information and point out issues to consider regarding recycling services contracts. It is not intended as a substitute for legal advice, and should be used only in conjunction with the advice of an attorney.

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Last updated: September 20, 2012
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