Reclaim, the sponsors of our website, surveyed 60 Auckland businesses throughout September 2012 to gain a snapshot of attitudes and behaviour towards recycling practice in the workplace. The survey was partly prompted by Auckland Councilís drive to achieve zero-waste status by 2015, with the main drive being to better understand how Reclaim can increase its customer base by helping businesses avoid land-fill charges and increase sustainability efforts.

An invitation email was distributed to Auckland businesses with respondents receiving a refillable coffee cup made from recycled plastics, supplied by recycle.co.nz. A good spread of business types, sizes and scale (local versus international), coupled with an even split of male and female respondents of various ages, holding a broad range of positions, meant the sample was fairly representative of Auckland businesses.

Why are businesses recycling?
Only 2% of respondents currently do not recycle their recyclable waste (such as cardboard, paper and plastic/metal/glass containers). 78% believe that recycling is simply doing the right thing and 63% do it as part of their general sustainability efforts. Interestingly, almost a third (32%) of businesses recycle because it costs less than sending recyclable waste to landfills and a fifth (20%) because company policy requires landfill waste to be minimised. 28% do it because they are expected to by customers, clients and staff.

What is and is not being collected for recycling?
The various types of materials collected for recycling are determined by the nature of the business waste produced. From those businesses that have these materials, Ink Cartridges and Polystyrene make up a third (33%) of materials not currently being collected, with other plastics, wood shavings and batteries/chemicals making up a fifth (20%). Oils, plastic film, other metals and electronic waste making up around 15% of recyclable materials not being collected for recycling. The most common materials being collected for recycling are paper and cardboard as these materials are a common business waste (90% of business have these collected). Plastic containers, glass bottles and aluminium cans each make up around 75%.

What could be stopping business from recycling?
An encouraging 48% (almost half) of businesses surveyed said they were already recycling as best they can. 13% stated they have no systems in place for separating their waste streams, 12% had a lack of recycling knowledge, 8% claim they do not have enough time to recycle and 7% claim they have limited site access or lack of storage space for extra bins.

What future importance is being placed on recycling?
It is encouraging for all New Zealanders to learn that 43% of businesses surveyed believe recycling will be more important and 27% believe it will be much more important. 17% thought it would be marginally more important and 12% believed it would be no more important.

How assured are businesses that their recyclable waste is actually recycled?
Almost two thirds (62%) of businesses assume their recyclables are actually being recycled, with only 25% actually knowing it is actually being recycled. 12% of businesses stated they are unaware of how recycling is undertaken and that it might be sent to landfills as far as they know. Just over two thirds (68%) believe that it is important to know their recyclable waste is actually recycled.

What is the likelihood of companies earning zero-waste status?
13% of survey respondents claim they already have zero-waste status. A third of businesses (33%) think this is likely, but will need help, and 10% think it is likely and will not need help. 10% are unsure and the remaining 26% of businesses believe this will be unlikely due to various reasons.

How well do businesses report on their recycling efforts?
It is concerning that just over three quarters (77%) of businesses have no records and do not report their recycling efforts at all. 5% have records but do not report their efforts, 5% have records and report to management, 3% report their efforts to staff and 2% to the general public.

What does all this mean?
Based on the survey results, it would be reasonable to expect businesses to increase their interest in, and attention to, recycling practice. There would seem to be a greater onus on waste collection companies to provide their customers with better recycling assurance and reporting systems. While the more common recyclable materials seem to be adequately collected (but not necessarily recycled), businesses are seeking a wider range of collection services to help them achieve zero-waste status.