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WasteWise Helpline Questions and Answers

Below are questions from Partners received by the WasteWise Helpline. Choose a question to see the Helpline’s response.

How do I start a recycling program?
In order to start a recycling program, you should know the quantity and composition of your waste stream and learn about the markets for the different types of recyclable materials in that waste stream. To gain a better understanding of your waste steam, you can conduct a waste audit (or assessment) to determine how much of each recyclable you generate. This will help you better focus on the specific types of materials that should be included in your collection program. Most waste hauling companies offer waste audit programs in addition to helping an organization set up recycling programs as part of their contracting services. Check with your existing waste hauler to see if they offer waste audit and recycling services. More information on waste audits is available here.

Most telephone books or a quick internet search can help identify local companies that offer either waste hauling and recycling services, or both. These companies can be hired to provide waste hauling and recycling services and help you identify what materials should be considered in your recycling program, the specifications for those collected materials, and the types of contractual terms and conditions that may be required. These companies generally know the current market conditions for conventional recyclable materials and may be able to help find markets for unique materials as well.

If you'd prefer to research markets for recyclable materials on your own, there are a number of trade associations for specific materials such as paper, steel, glass, etc that should be able to help identify markets for recyclables in your area. An internet search should identify a host of these associations. Your local or state government recycling offices, the local Chamber of Commerce, or a local or regional recycling organization might also be able to help you identify markets for materials you intend to collect. Since transportation costs can greatly influence the economics of recycling, if you are conducting your own research on markets you should consider local markets to help reduce these costs.

How do I join WasteWise?  Where can I find general WasteWise information?
Visit the Join WasteWise page for links to general information and registration forms.

For information about planning your waste reduction program once you are a Partner, visit our Partner Support page.

To ensure a successful waste reduction program, consult the checklist 10 Steps to a Successful WasteWise Program (PDF) (4 pp, 430 KB).  

Why should I join WasteWise?  What can WasteWise do for me?
As a WasteWise Partner or Endorser, organizations can access a wealth of free technical assistance that will help you design and implement effective waste reduction activities. Through our network of experts and peers, you will learn cost-cutting waste reduction strategies and gain valuable insight from other participants. Key benefits include:

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Should I join WasteWise as a Partner or as an Endorser?
Organizations are encouraged to join as a WasteWise Partner if they generate wastes and have a means to measure recycling and waste reduction efforts. Endorsers are state and local government agencies, trade associations, nonprofit organizations, and businesses that help their stakeholders realize that reducing solid waste makes good business sense.  Endorsers recruit organizations to become WasteWise Partners and provide Partners with ongoing promotional or technical information. By doing so, Endorsers demonstrate their leadership in the environmental arena and play a pivotal role in conserving our natural resources and preventing pollution.

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Once I’ve submitted my baseline data, what are the next steps?
WasteWise Partners join at different points in their waste reduction efforts.  Therefore, we do not have a formal step-wise approach for waste reduction. We do, however, have many resources available through our Partner Support section.

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How can I access my data and enter new data online?
To access your baseline and annual data, please go to the SMM data management system. If you need assistance, please contact the WasteWise Helpline at 800-EPA-WISE or wastewisehelp@epa.gov.

Visit the Publications and Forms page to download PDF files of the baseline and annual assessment forms.

Where can I find more information about the ABA-EPA Climate Challenge and WasteWise?
ABA-EPA Climate Challenge participants are encouraged to join WasteWise to help them adopt best practices for office paper management. Please visit the ABA-EPA Climate Challenge WasteWise Web site Exit EPA Disclaimer for more information. You may also wish to read about the connection between climate change and waste.

Where I can I recycle electronics, clothing, furniture, metals, etc.?
State and local laws, markets, and infrastructure typically dictate materials included in recycling programs. You should direct the question of where to recycle certain materials in your area to your local government (generally to the offices of solid waste, public works, or department of environment), or call 1-800-CLEANUP. You can also use EPA’s A-Z Subject Index to find more information about how to recycle certain types of wastes.

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