Reverse recycling at the office

Keep Durham Beautiful program encourages easy desk-side recycling
Jul. 05, 2014 @ 09:43 AM

Recycling is one of the simplest ways to help protect the environment. It saves natural resources and keeps reusable items out of landfills. Thanks to the “Reverse Recycling” program, implemented by Keep Durham Beautiful and City Solid Waste Management and General Services Departments, over 1,200 City of Durham employees now have special recycling containers at their fingertips. With a small investment and training, this system is accessible for almost any office environment.

City employees now have access to this progressive recycling system that encourages staff to discard less in trash cans that are smaller than ever, and recycle more in the larger bins at their desks. The small bins are essentially plastic saddle bags that cost about $5 each and hook onto the existing trash can. Suddenly the old trash can converts into a convenient desk-side recycling bin.

In Durham, city staff helped to roll out the program over a six-month period. Facilities Operations Division staff worked with Keep Durham Beautiful to train each department and streamline waste collection. The City Solid Waste Management Department provided recycling education at trainings and assured adequate recycling infrastructure in city buildings.

The trainings provided an opportunity for employees to interact and to review the items that should be recycled together in the single-stream system used throughout Durham and by most commercial recycling contactors. Items such as bottles, cans and most paper can go in together, along with clean yogurt cups, window envelopes and even the tops of pizza boxes.

Employees learned that in a separate bin, they could also recycle used-up ink pens, markers and mechanical pencils through a pen recycling program offered by the City-County Sustainability Office to generate funds that benefit the Keep Durham Beautiful nonprofit. Pen recycling is available to Durham residents at all Durham County Public Libraries and City of Durham Recreation Centers.

Implementing a program like this gives enthusiastic employees a chance to shine, helping coworkers and promoting environmental stewardship. In Durham, volunteer Frederick Bright, who is a senior laborer with City Landscape Services, committed to help Keep Durham Beautiful with recycling as a special project. He was instrumental in implementing the Reverse Recycling program by identifying departments and office locations that needed the bins, and facilitating distribution. With Bright’s assistance, Keep Durham Beautiful was able to implement the program six months ahead of its projected schedule.

For more information about the City’s curbside recycling program, call 919-560-4186 or visit

Tania Dautlick is executive director of Keep Durham Beautiful, a non-profit affiliate of Keep America Beautiful that engages and inspires individuals to take greater responsibility for their community environment. Focus areas include litter prevention, beautification, recycling and waste reduction. For additional recycling resources, visit or call 919-354-2729. Be sure to like us at or follow us at