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How to Reduce Waste

Inventory and Purchasing
Organic Waste

Writing and printing paper

  • Make two-sided photocopies to save paper, cut mailing costs, reduce the need for new filing cabinets, and permit smaller mailing envelopes to be used.
  • Use paper with post-consumer recycled content; the quality of recycled paper has improved.
  • Keep mailing lists current.
  • Ask companies to eliminate duplicate or unwanted catalogues.
  • Circulate (rather than copy) memos, documents, periodicals, and reports.
  • Use the unprinted side of used paper for notes.
  • Use central files to reduce the number of hard copies the department retains.
  • Proof documents on the computer screen before printing them out.
  • Use email instead of sending memos and minimize email printouts.
  • Save documents on thumb drives and hard drives instead of paper.
  • Post departmental bulletins or use email rather than circulating multiple copies.
  • Donate old magazines and journals to hospitals, clinics, or libraries.
  • Reduce the amount of advertising received at home by writing to:
  • Direct Marketing Association Mail Preference Service
    P.O. Box 9008
    Farmingdale, NY 11735-900


  • Order merchandise in bulk.
  • Purchase products with minimal packaging and in concentrated form.
  • Reuse foam packing peanuts, bubble wrap, and cardboard boxes or use newspaper and shredded paper for packaging.
  • Don't throw away pallets. Arrange for pallets to be returned to the supplier or arrange to recycle them.
  • Ask suppliers to use post-consumer recycled and/or recyclable material in packaging to give them an incentive to change.

Inventory and Purchasing

  • Avoid ordering excess supplies that may never be used.
  • Order supplies in bulk to reduce excess packaging.
  • Substitute less toxic or non-toxic products for inks, paints, cleaning solvents, etc.
  • Use products that are durable, high quality, recyclable, or reusable to reduce waste.


  • Use rechargeable batteries when practical.
  • Install reusable furnace and air conditioner filters.
  • Sell or give old furniture and equipment to other businesses, local charitable organizations, or employees.
  • Rent equipment that is used only occasionally.
  • Return printer cartridges to the supplier for re-manufacture.
  • Establish a regular maintenance routine to prolong the life of equipment.

Organic Waste

  • Choose a landscape design that needs low maintenance.
  • Use a mulching lawnmower and leave grass clippings on the lawn.
  • Compost.


Commonly purchased disposable items that should be replaced by reusable items to reduce solid waste:

  • Cups
  • Eating utensils
  • Dishes
  • Copier and printer cartridges
  • Pens
  • Baby diapers
  • Disposable shavers
  • Batteries for appliances
  • Restroom hand towels
  • Filters for forced air furnaces and air conditioners

Compiled from the EPA Business Guide for Reducing Solid Waste, Forty Ways to Make Government Purchasing Green and other sources.

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 How to Recycle at MIT


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Michael Seaberg

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Office Hours: M - F, 7AM - 4:30PM
Phone: 617-253-4948
Building: 7-019

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