NC State Extension Publications


Skip to Introduction

More than 9 million tons of waste is disposed of in North Carolina each year. Commercial and industrial businesses contribute a significant amount of that total. Because of the burden these wastes place on our environment and our economy, steps are being taken to reduce the amount of waste being generated and discarded. This fact sheet explains the state's waste reduction programs and how your business can benefit. The State of North Carolina responded to the need for better waste management by enacting solid waste management legislation (Senate Bill 111 and House Bill 1109.) These bills establish strategies for reducing solid waste. The methods to be used include reducing the amount of waste produced as well as recycling, reusing, and composting waste materials. State laws also ban certain materials from landfills: yard wastes, whole tires, used oil, lead-acid batteries, "white" goods (stoves, refrigerators, and other large household appliances), aluminum cans, antifreeze, motor vehicle oil filters, wooden pallets, plastic bottles, oyster shells, computer equipment, and televisions. In addition, several counties have established bans or penalties for disposing of some recyclable materials, such as cardboard, in landfills. Our state's businesses discard a wide variety of materials. Paper, cardboard, and organic materials contribute the largest volume of solid waste, but metals, glass, textiles, plastics, and construction wastes are important components as well.

The Importance of Waste Reduction for Business

Skip to The Importance of Waste Reduction for Business

By taking steps to reduce waste, a business can

  • save money on supplies
  • conserve natural resources and energy
  • reduce current waste disposal costs and hedge against increased future disposal costs
  • meet customer demand for "green" products and environmentally conscious businesses
  • avoid adding to the environmental burden caused by producing and disposing of unnecessary materials
  • boost employee morale by giving staff members an opportunity to work together on an environmental project
  • reduce the risk of future liability associated with the disposal of solid wastes.

How to Reduce-Reuse-Recycle-Compost

Skip to How to Reduce-Reuse-Recycle-Compost

Reducing Waste Production

The most direct way to cut your disposal costs is with source reduction: that is, by reducing the amount of waste your business produces. You have less to get rid of if you purchase and discard less material. By analyzing your business' waste stream, you will probably discover that you can eliminate much of the waste your business produces.

Reusing Waste Material

Reusing products in their present form is a cost-efficient method of reducing waste. It is usually cheaper to clean or repair products so that they can be reused rather than to buy new or recycled ones.


Many of the products that cannot be eliminated or reused can be recycled. Energy and natural resources are saved and environmental pollution is reduced when products are made from recycled rather than new materials. Your business can also cut disposal costs greatly by recycling.


A large amount of the waste stream consists of organic materials such as food scraps and yard trimmings. These materials are also usually the heaviest, and it costs more to remove heavy waste. Composting can take place on-site or at commercial or municipal facilities.

Simple Ways to Reduce Waste

Skip to Simple Ways to Reduce Waste

Here are examples of some easy ways to reduce the amount of waste that your business produces. Most of them involve simple changes in procedures and work habits.

Writing and Printing Paper

  • Buy recycled paper.
  • Keep mailing lists current.
  • Reuse manila envelopes.
  • Make scratch pads from used paper.
  • Circulate or create electronic copies of memos, documents, periodicals, and reports rather than making or buying individual paper copies for all personnel.
  • Use outdated letterhead for in-house memos.
  • Proofread documents on the computer screen before printing them.
  • Save documents electronically instead of making hard copies.
  • Use remanufactured office equipment.
  • Use centralized files for hard copies.
  • Improve inventory management so items don’t expire or become unusable.
  • Don’t purchase disposable products.
  • Track your waste online.
  • Use email instead of paper for exchanging internal memos and electronic documents.

Packaging and Shipping

  • Order merchandise with minimal packaging, in concentrated form, or in bulk.
  • Ask suppliers not to overpackage orders.
  • Request that materials you order be shipped in returnable containers.
  • Reuse foam packaging pellets ("peanuts") and cardboard boxes or find someone who will.
  • Set up a system for returning cardboard boxes and foam pellets to distributors for reuse.
  • Return, reuse, and repair wooden pallets.
  • Replace cardboard boxes with durable, reusable boxes for shipments to your branch offices, stores, and warehouses.


  • Use remanufactured office equipment.
  • Invest in equipment that helps reduce waste, such as:
    • high quality, durable, repairable equipment copiers that make two-sided copies
    • dish washing equipment (so that you can use durable dinnerware).
  • Use rechargeable batteries.
  • Recharge or recycle fax and printer cartridges.
  • Install reusable furnace and air conditioner filters.

Landscaping and Organic Wastes

  • Choose a landscape design that requires little maintenance and water.
  • Compost food scraps, grass clippings, and leaves to make a valuable soil amendment (or make sure your landscape contractor composts).
  • Purchase compost for use as a topsoil amendment (or request that your landscape contractor do so).
  • Use a worm bin to convert nonfatty food wastes into high-quality potting soil (vermicompost).

Food and Personal Services

  • Instead of paper, use cloth towels, tablecloths, and napkins.
  • Encourage employees to bring lunches in reusable containers.
  • Avoid using disposable tableware when serving food and drinks to the public; use durable dishes, flatware, cups, and glasses. You will need a dishwasher, but the cost savings will quickly pay for it.
  • Use automatic hand dryers in the restrooms.
  • Encourage employees to use durable cups and dinnerware for their food and beverages, and keep a supply on hand for visitors.
  • Donate extra food (Emerson Good Samaritan Act).

You and your business can also help reduce waste by influencing your customers’ behavior. Here are some ideas

  • Teach your customers about the importance of reducing waste. Effective messaging tools include promotional campaigns, brochures and newsletters (printed on recycled paper), banners, newspaper advertisements, product displays, store signs, and labels.

  • Encourage reuse of shopping bags by asking customers if they have their own bag, complimenting customers who reuse bags, providing a financial incentive for reuse, and implementing a promotional campaign.

  • Offer customers waste-reducing choices alongside their waste-producing counterparts. Examples include items sold in bulk; durable, reusable cloth products, such as diapers, coffee filters, towels, and napkins; solar-powered items, such as watches, calculators, and flashlights; rechargeable batteries; products packaged in recycled and recyclable materials; razors with replaceable blades; durable picnic dinnerware; high-quality merchandise; repairable merchandise.

  • Reward your customers with a rebate when they return grocery bags, containers for bulk items, or coffee mugs and soda cups to be refilled.

Keys to a Successful Waste Reduction and Recycling Program

Skip to Keys to a Successful Waste Reduction and Recycling Program

Developing an effective waste reduction program for your business involves three main steps: planning, laying the groundwork, and carrying out the program as part of your business' daily activities. Here are the tasks to be carried out at each step.

Planning and Preparation

  • Study the waste stream and the costs associated.
  • Develop a waste reduction proposal and gain the support of your management team.
  • Assess employees' interest and encourage their support.

Laying the Foundation

  • Select a waste reduction and recycling coordinator.
  • Set goals.
  • Decide on waste reduction measures, procurement policies, and what will be recycled.
  • Locate markets for waste materials, or select a recycling service.
  • Identify sources of recycled products.
  • Design a waste collection and storage system.

Getting the Program On-Line

  • Educate your staff.
  • Promote and implement the program.
  • Establish monitoring and evaluation procedures.

Buying Recycled Products

Skip to Buying Recycled Products

Collecting recyclable items is only the first step in recycling. The loop is not complete until these items are made into new products and purchased. By purchasing products that are (1) manufactured from recycled materials, (2) recyclable, and (3) packaged in recyclable materials, you will help create a stable market for recycled items. Look for the following items made from recycled materials the next time your company purchases supplies:

  • tissue, hand towels, and toilet paper
  • cardboard and paper board containers
  • packaging materials
  • lubricating and motor oil
  • plastic carpeting, lumber, screens, and downspouts
  • construction materials
  • asphalt.

Purchasing used, refurbished items instead of new ones helps, too. Look for

  • recharged laser printer cartridges
  • retreaded tires support
  • used and refurbished office furniture or machinery.


Extension Solid Waste Specialist
Horticultural Science

Find more information at the following NC State Extension websites:

Publication date: March 30, 2017

N.C. Cooperative Extension prohibits discrimination and harassment regardless of age, color, disability, family and marital status, gender identity, national origin, political beliefs, race, religion, sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation and veteran status.