California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle)

Business Waste Reduction

Contracts for Recycling Services in Office Buildings

Considerations When Contracting for Recycling Services

An ideal recycling contract for an office or facility will be determined primarily by the amount of waste that is generated and what kinds of recyclables are predominant in the waste stream. For instance, a road department maintenance yard will likely generate a large quantity of scrap metal. A field office may generate mostly paper, but also some beverage containers. Facilities that generate significant quantities of valuable materials, such as metals or high-quality white paper, may earn money by contracting for the recycling of those materials separately. For many other offices and facilities, negotiating with a trash hauler for comprehensive recycling services may be the simplest and the most cost-effective option.

CalRecycle advises facility managers to contact their local recycling coordinator to find out about recycling options and specific requirements or opportunities in their community.

For instance, food waste makes up a large portion of the waste stream, but not all jurisdictions have convenient options to compost or anaerobically digest food waste. If your facility has a large landscaped property, you may be able to contract for landscaping materials to be composted, greatly reducing the volume of your waste. If your landscaped property is small, you may be able to compost landscape materials and even some food scraps on site using a within-vessel compost system.

CalRecycle manages three recycling contracts for scrap metal and paper recycling. These services are available to State agencies at no cost. If your State government facility is located in one of the areas served by an existing CalRecycle contract, please contact the service provider for further details before setting up a similar recycling contract.

Examples of recycling contracts negotiated by State agencies are available at the bottom of this webpage.

Key Steps in Managing Waste at State Facilities:

Identify the Recycling Coordinator and Building Manager

Each State Agency is required to appoint a recycling coordinator. The recycling coordinator may be responsible for a single building or for multiple facilities and should be knowledgeable about solid waste management and recycling. The recycling coordinator is typically responsible for filing the agency’s annual report with CalRecycle and for calculating the agency’s per-capita disposal rate.

If your agency is located within a larger facility, contact the facility manager to review current recycling activities, existing recycling contracts and opportunities to improve.

For more information, see the website titled Waste Management for State Agencies.

Conduct a Waste Audit

A waste audit identifies the amounts and types of recyclable materials and waste a facility generates. Using the data collected during a waste audit, a State Agency can identify ways to reduce waste and enhance its recycling efforts, and determine potential cost savings by avoiding disposal. A waste audit involves sorting and weighing what is disposed by your facility. Guides to performing waste audits are readily available on the web. The guide offered by the Natural Resources Defense Council is typical and concise.

Develop a Refuse and Recycling Plan

After determining the amounts and types of recyclables a facility generates, the next step is to develop a refuse and recycling plan for approval by management. This plan will determine how the recyclables will flow from the collection point to the loading dock.

Management should be included in all steps of the plan development. The potential for success is greater when management supports the plan.

Concepts that may help generate management support include:

The amount of space available at a facility for storing and collecting recyclables will determine the frequency of pickups and the types of materials that can be collected and stored. Other recycling plan considerations may include:

  • Number/size and signage of recycling bins
  • Gaining/maintaining employee support
  • Continuous education of employees to reduce contamination and ensure optimal material sorting
  • Movement of materials from bins to loading docks, and by whom
  • Available storage space at loading docks or nearby
  • Multiple tenants and shared recycling duties
  • Maintenance and cleaning schedule for bins
  • Potential need to store valuable recyclables in theft-proof containers
  • Need to protect some commodities, like high-quality paper, from moisture
  • Heavy equipment access for unloading and loading operations
  • Point of contact for hauler or recycler
  • Recycler security clearances

Review the Current Waste Hauler Agreement

If the current waste removal contract is based on the frequency of service or the amount of waste generated, rather than a flat fee, waste prevention and recycling may be financially rewarding. Facilities can reduce disposal costs and sometimes earn revenue from the sale of separated recyclables. Due to new laws such as mandatory commercial recycling, the current hauler could be willing and ready to provide an additional bin for mixed recyclables at little or no cost.

Consider Other Potential Recyclers

Private entities may offer opportunities that could benefit a facility. For instance, local non-profit agencies may offer low-cost recycling pickup or an opportunity to donate recyclables to a cause that benefits the community. These types of organizations may also provide recycling containers, remove pallets, shred confidential documents, and provide promotional materials to educate employees.

Issues to consider when choosing a vendor include:

  • Whether materials must be separated,
  • Whether the vendor will pay for recyclables, how the materials will be weighed, and how payments will be calculated and tracked,
  • Whether the vendor can provide references

Consider Commingled Recyclables vs. Source Separation

Commingling means combining all types of recyclables, like paper, plastic, glass and metal together. Source separation involves separating material into types, such as paper and plastic.

Many trash haulers offer commingled recycling: one bin for all recyclables and a separate bin for trash. This “single stream” of materials is transported to a materials recovery facility (MRF) where it is sorted by material type and baled for sale to brokers.

If you are seeking revenue from recycled materials, source separation may be a better choice. In general, better sorted material is worth more; for instance, source separated white office paper is worth more than mixed paper. Source separation requires multiple bins, so consider whether additional bins will fit in the space available.

Educate Employees About Contaminations

Many contracts allow recyclers to pay less or charge fees for rejected or contaminated loads. Even with commingled recyclables, the presence of garbage in the recyclables can cause hardship for the recycler or hauler. Ongoing employee education programs reduce the incidence of contamination. Each contract will need a predetermined process for handling loads that are too contaminated for recycling, with clearly defined steps for documenting rejected loads.

Track and Manage Revenue

Not all recycling activities generate revenue. In some cases, the revenue can offset the cost for trash removal or even support other recycling activities. In many other cases, the trash hauler will agree to take the recyclables for no extra charge, and disposal costs will decline as the volume of garbage decreases.

For larger Agencies or facilities with potentially valuable waste streams, however, the revenue could be substantial. For any state facility planning to receive recycling revenue, the department’s accounting office should consider the appropriate method to deposit and track the proceeds.

There is more than one way to structure a revenue contract, but all such contracts should have certain features to ensure accountability. First of all, the contract should require the recycler to provide weight tickets for each load of materials removed from the State facility. The weight tickets should be generated by a scale operated by a certified weighmaster. Second, the price paid for the material needs to be associated with a published market; this requires a method to track your specific commodity type. There are several trade publications for pricing recycled commodities, but these subscriptions can be expensive. Free recycled commodity pricing is not generally available on the Internet; however, you may be able to contact local recyclers or brokers to obtain information about current prices.

CalRecycle’s paper recycling contract for Sacramento area State offices, and its metal recycling contracts for Caltrans, are good examples of revenue-producing contracts. Here are some notable features of these contracts:

  • In the paper contract, commodity types are tied to a floor value based on the three-year average price for that commodity. This protects the State from lapses in service when commodity prices are low, and allows both parties to share the profits when prices are high.
  • In the metals contract, prices for a mixed load of metal are tied to one benchmark. That prevents State employees from having to sort many different metal types, which requires considerable expertise. It also greatly reduces the paperwork associated with tracking revenues.

Examples of State Agency Recycling Contracts

  1. Paper
  2. Food Waste
  3. Bullet Casings | Bullet Casing Rate Sheet
  4. Scrap Metal | Scrap Metal Bid Sheet
  5. Construction & Demolition (C&D) | C&D Special Procedures

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: October 27, 2016
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