municipalities can realize substantial economic savings simply by reducing the
amount of office waste they generate. Reduced use, increased efficiency,
recycling and the reuse of materials can deliver numerous economic and
environmental benefits to cities. There are many forms of waste. This chapter
focuses on office wastes, especially paper. Similar analyses can be made for
all forms of municipal waste.
Office Practices to Reduce Waste
is an important part of reducing our impact on the environment, it is important
to combine recycling with waste prevention programs to implement practices that
reduce consumption and to reuse office supplies. An
enormous amount of waste is generated every year in offices due to inefficient
use patterns. One of the first places to start is reducing paper use in offices:
The average office worker uses
10,000 sheets of copy paper each year. Producing and delivering that paper
requires energy, whose use releases carbon.
The U.S. consumes 30% of the world’s
paper with 5% of the world’s population.
throw away enough office paper every year to build a 12-foot-high wall
stretching from New York to San
Francisco. When paper rots in a landfill, it releases methane gas, a far more
potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
efficiency increases profits. First place an emphasis on reducing use, then on
reducing waste and finally recycling the waste that is still generated. Cities
should start with the concepts and practices that staff are most familiar with,
and are thus more likely to rapidly embrace. Do what is easiest to get staff
started, but recognize that even the easy things require a commitment to making
changes in daily habits.
Here are some
simple ways to significantly reduce paper waste.
photocopiers and printers to print on both sides by default.
If this is not possible, save paper that can be used on the second side, and
computer files instead of paper files whenever possible.
There are many free or inexpensive software programs, such as Stickies
that reduce or eliminate the need for sticky notes and note pads. Small
handheld computers are especially good for note taking, calendar scheduling, and
other tasks that traditionally use paper. With recent advances in computer
software, it is now easier than ever to create documents that are encrypted,
password protected, and safe from either unauthorized access or alteration using
sophisticated free and low cost software. Electronic signatures are
increasingly becoming accepted and are legally binding.
files also save floor and file space, and most electronic documents are safer
than paper. Backup copies can be easily transferred to high-capacity, low-cost
removable media, such as compact discs or removable hard drives and stored
off-site. Backups can also be transferred over secure Internet connections for
off-site storage. Offices are then safer from fire or flood and theft.
mail—Take steps to
reduce the amount of junk mail that offices receive. While this may take a
little staff time at first, in the end staff time will be saved by not having to
weed out the junk, fewer trees will be lost to produce the paper, less fuel will
be used in the production and sale of the paper not to mention the saved
printing and delivery costs.
Remove Your Business From Two Major
Mailing List Databases:
Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) maintains the largest company database worldwide,
collecting information on more than 70 million business establishments from 217
countries. An authorized representative of the business can request the
"delisting" process orally or in writing, resulting in its removal from
marketing directories, publications and/or mailing lists. To have your business
delisted, call D&B’s customer service center at 1-800-333-0505 or send an e-mail
InfoUSA maintains information on more than 12 million businesses in the
U.S. To remove your business from their lists, fax a letter to (402) 331-0176
with: "Attention—Business Update Department" on top. The letter should include
the complete business name, address, and phone number; the name and title of the
person requesting the deletion; and that person's signature. You can also send
this letter by regular mail to
InfoUSA, P.O. Box 27347, Omaha, NE, 68127.
Business from Specific Company Mailing Lists:
Not every company uses the mailing list databases maintained by Dun & Bradstreet
and InfoUSA. You can either establish a system where one person is designated
to contact individual, persistent mail solicitors or encourage all your
employees to contact mail solicitors. You can create a preprinted postcard to
make it easier for employees to contact solicitors, thus increasing the
likelihood that they will. When sending a mailing list deletion request card,
be sure to write "Attn: Direct Marketing Dept." under the company address. Even
if the company does not have a separate direct marketing department, this will
help the card be delivered to an individual within the company who can delete
your name from their mailing list.
If a company continues to send
unwanted mail report the persistent offender to the National Waste Prevention
Coalition’s "Business Junk Mail Complaint Bureau." If the bureau receives
several complaints about a particular company, it will notify that company.
The Federal Trade Commission
website on unsolicited mail gives direction on how to remove yourself from
The Direct Marketing Association Mail Preference Service also gives people a way
to opt out of junk mail.
The Center for a New American Dream provides a free Junk Mail Organizers Kit.
envelopes to send mail whenever possible.
Use labels to cover the
old address on used envelopes. Some companies sell reuse labels
for envelopes, which have a discrete message at the bottom explaining that this
envelope was reused to save trees.
Have each staff set aside paper that
they use on only one side
so that it can be
reused for printing drafts in your printer, or stapled together to make scratch
pads. As employees accumulate paper, they can transfer it to a storage box near
a printer or photocopier.
which material you want to recycle, find someone to pick up the material (for
example Yellow Pages directories generally have recycling vendors who will pick
up old directories), put recycling bins around your office, and get staff to
participate. Having management participate is important to creating a
successful recycling program.
Look under headings such as recycling, refuse, waste disposal for local
products from suppliers and manufactures that use minimal packaging.
packing material whenever possible
Spread the word. A good example is
the best motivator, and you might help persuade local residents and businesses
to practice waste prevention. Eliminating excess packaging in one Wal-Mart
product line saved the company $2.4 million a year and 1 million barrels of oil
CASE STUDY: Miami, FL
The management of paper related to hundreds of thousands of
traffic cases filed in Miami-Dade County each
year is a monumental challenge. The Clerk's Office and the Court have
progressed from simple manual procedures to highly complex automated
processing systems. Demands for greater efficiency and capacity in
managing the never-ending flow of these documents encouraged new and
creative ways to manage these court records. The SPIRIT (Simultaneous
Paperless Image Retrieval Information Technology) Project,
a technology-based information system developed for the Traffic Division
of Miami-Dade County, was launched in 1995. Accenture
developed the SPIRIT software program for the Miami-Dade County.
Projects were initiated to provide improved service to the various
agencies that process traffic cases, attorneys and the public.
The SPIRIT Project addresses every aspect of the traffic
court process, from scheduling traffic cases, scanning documents, front counter processing, public
viewing, the judge’s workbench and end of session processing. All are
handled by a specially designed software system that dramatically
reduces the amount of paper used in court and cuts down the number of
clerks needed. Some of the benefits of SPIRIT include:
Over a 5-year period, the Clerk’s Traffic Division reduced
the number of full time positions by 40 and transferred excess employees
to the budget office and other vacant position within the Clerk’s
The Clerk’s Traffic division is now handling and processing
32% more citations than in 1995, with a 167% increase in infraction
cases scheduled for court, all with 15% less staff.
The Traffic Division’s use of SPIRIT reduced overtime from
a high of $412,649 for the fiscal year 1996-97 to a projected low of
$150,000 in 2001-02.
An improved system for setting schedules has led to a
significant reduction in police officer court overtime and increased
officers’ hours on the street.
The error rate of data entry has been reduced from 15% to
less than 1%.
All traffic clerks have access to SPIRIT case files
simultaneously allowing, totally decentralized service to the public at
all district locations.
Chief Information Officer
Clerk of Courts
CASE STUDY: New York,
New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)
is the city’s waste prevention and recycling resource for home, agencies
and school, and businesses.
The NYC DEP made some simple changes in its office
practices that reduced the amount of waste it produced and produced cost
savings. The DEP made four changes: double-siding all copies,
refurbishing printer toner cartridges, substituting electronic for paper
telephone directories, and streamlining letterhead format.
The reproduction shop at the DEP makes all copies
double-sided except when a single-sided copy is specifically requested.
The number of double-sided copy jobs has risen to 92%, saving an estimated 5,520,000 sheets of paper every year, or about
As part of the NYCitySen$e Project, the DEP LeFrak City offices
initiated a program to collect and return toner printer cartridges to
the manufacturers for refurbishing or recycling. In addition, DEP plans
to purchase refurbished toner cartridges through its purchasing agents.
The DEP implemented a program to update, produce and
disseminate its internal telephone directory electronically. Before the
program began, DEP printed 2,500 telephone directories annually.
Switching to electronic phone directories reduced annual paper use by
1.29 tons and saved around $14,800.
Since the DEP has 14 Deputy Commissioners and 12 regional
headquarters, the letterhead needs of the Agency are constantly
changing. DEP developed a standardized format for letterhead that
includes DEP’s logo and the Commissioner’s name and provided individual
computer templates for each office. The new letterhead system allows
DEP staff to personalize and print letterhead on demand and eliminates
the need to replace pre-printed letterhead with each new staff
Environmental Protection, Customer Service
Click on the endnote number to return to text.
Fore more information visit California Integrated Waste Management Board
Waste Prevention and Recycling,
www.ciwmb.ca.gov/WPW/Office/, 29 September 2006.
Contact Tom Watson, Coordinator, National Waste Prevention Coalition.
Phone: (206) 296-4481,
 P.O. Box 9008,
Farmingdale NY 11735-9008.
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