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Disposable income from office trash.

Following the 20th anniversary of Earth Day, it is hard for any of us to be unaware of the effects industrialization has had on our planet. Through the news media, we are constantly reminded of our contaminated waters, polluted air, endangered rain forests, and depleted natural resources.

Although its effects may be indirect, recycling has a far-reaching positive effect on the environment, including the preservation of wildlife habitats, the slowing of global warming, and the reduction of pollution.

Complementing the environmental benefits of recycling are two major financial benefits for the property manager-reduction of waste removal costs and of building operating expenses.

The reduction in landfill use slows the pace of rapidly escalating waste removal costs. Operating costs are lowered through the reduction of the quantity of solid waste being removed and by an increase in revenues from the sale of recycled material. The savings and new income can be directly transferred to tenants, allowing more attractive and competitive leasing rates.

While much of the current emphasis in recycling has focused on residential users, the office tenant is also a vital link in any recycling effort.

Evolution of a recycling effort

One company that recognized the benefits of recycling in an office environment was Metropolitan Structures. The company initiated a pilot recycling program at the Calffornia Plaza in Angeles, beginning in 1989.

Following the success of the pilot effort, the company expanded its program - Project Conserve - to include seven office developments in downtown Chicago. These seven buildings have a total of nearly 7 million square feet and dispose of an average of 50 tons of waste a day. An estimated 80 percent of this waste is recyclable.

Choosing a partner

The first step in developing Project Conserve was selecting a waste management company to oversee it. Several factors influenced the decision:

* the company's ability to handle a large-scale recycling program,

* the company's past experience, and

* the company's ability to create a market in which to sell the recycled commodities.

This last consideration is important, as the market for recycled materials is not guaranteed. The demand for products made from these materials is often lower than the quantity of the materials being recycled.

Based on the inspection of facilities, a reference check, and the above criteria, the firm chose Ace Disposal Systems, a subsidiary of Waste Management of North America, to manage Project Conserve.

Developing the program

Three important elements drove the development of Project Conserve: the market for resale would dictate the items to be recycled, the participation would be voluntary, and the plan would require minimal work by janitorial staff.

During the first phase of the project, only high-grade white paper was recycled because of market demand. Four months later, aluminum cans were phased in. Mixed grade paper will be added as market demand increases.

Tenants are not required to participate, although most have chosen to do so. Tenants that do take part must make a commitment to active participation. For example, each involved tenant is required to select a recycling coordinator within its office, who is responsible for orienting employees to the recycling program. This person acts as the liaison with facility managers to assure that the program does not interfere with office work or environment.

Within the office, each employee is responsible for his or her own recyclable materials. Each work station has a personal recycling bin for paper disposed throughout the day. At the end of each day, employees empty their personal bins into a central recycling depot located on each floor. There is also a central depot for aluminum cans.

The regular evening maintenance staff empties the central paper recycling depots only when they are full, conserving time and bag liners. The aluminum cans are emptied every night to avoid odor and potential pest problems. The janitorial staff then takes the green plastic recycling bags and the clear plastic refuse bags to the same compactor.

Ace Disposal picks up all refuse and separates the two types of bags. The disposal company sells the recyclable materials and sends a rebate check to the management company, which is applied to building operating costs.

Involving tenants

Office tenants in company buildings had already expressed an interest in recycling before the program was launched. For example, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange began stockpiling aluminum cans before the phase in of the recycling effort and distributed buttons to all employees which read, "I Recycle''

To announce the program to tenants, Metropolitan Structures held two orientation breakfasts, one for the five office buildings in Illinois Center and one for the two office buildings on Wacker. Invitations were sent to office managers, company presidents, and CEOS.

In cooperation with the disposal company, our firm developed a comprehensive program to introduce Project Conserve. The breakfast included a slide presentation, personal introductions of the building management and disposal company personnel, brief presentations on how the program would operate, and supporting material to expand on the information given at the presentation and to encourage recycling and the purchase of recycled products

Building tenants were also alerted to Project Conserve through signs posted throughout the buildings and through a cover stroy in the tenant newsletter. A public relations firm, Dragonette, Inc., was used to promote Project Conserve through stories in newspapers and trade publications.

During the month between the orientation and the start of the program, one-on-one meetings were held between the recycling coordinators selected by each office and the facility managers. These meetings provided a personal forum in which any questions for a specffic office could be answered. Following the meetings, recycling bins were distributed to each participating office, and the project was launched.

To maintain interest in the project, lobby signage is updated monthly to show the amount of materials recycled and the natural resources that have been saved as a result. As of December 1990, this total exceeded 245 tons of paper, conserving 4,100 trees. Follow-up stories are also included in the tenant newsletters.

The ongoing job of recycling

The wide acceptance of Project Conserve has led Metropolitan Structures to accelerate its plans to expand its recycling efforts. In addition to plans to phase in mixed-grade paper recycling at participating buildings, the company is developing recycling programs for other projects under management.

Project Conserve has also influenced many participants to initiate further measures toward preservation of the environment, including the purchase of recycled paper products, the use of both sides of the sheet when copying, and the distribution of coffee mugs to eliminate the use of styrofoam cups.

Workers in the buildings have become so accustomed to recycling at the office that many have begun to bring their paper and aluminum from home in order to recycle.

The most important impact of this, or any, recycling program is its value to the environment. Just as one individual's waste becomes everyone's problem, one company's efforts to re-channel this waste is part of everyone's solution.

Larry Nowakowski is vice president of properly management for Metropolitan Structures. He is responsible for operations of all of the company's properties in Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas, and Montreal. He is a CPA and prior to joining Metropolitan Structures in 1978, he was an auditor for Coopers and Lybrand.

Metropolitan Structures is a partnership of Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. and Metco Properties. Its major developments include Illinois Center in Chicago, California Plaza in Los Angeles, and Nun's Island in Montreal.
COPYRIGHT 1991 National Association of Realtors
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Title Annotation:recycling program of Metropolitan Structures
Author:Nowakowski, Larry
Publication:Journal of Property Management
Date:Mar 1, 1991
Previous Article:Recycling as a way of life.
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