How to set up a business recycling program

This online guide provides an overview of the complete towardZero – reducing waste at work program to help businesses improve recycling and reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill. The guide will assist you to develop a business case, plan for and implement the program. Key links, resources and tools are linked throughout the online guide and the full guide.

About the project

The Central Queensland Local Government Association (CQLGA), with the support of local councils and funding from the National Packaging Covenant, recognised an opportunity to build on an existing regional integrated recycling project and design a program targeting the C&I sector.

TowardZero – reducing waste at work was run as a free program for businesses in regional areas.  The aim was to develop, implement and promote a business waste reduction and recycling program that successfully reduces the quantity of C&I waste sent to landfill in the region.

Results were achieved by:

  • engaging stakeholders (businesses, waste service providers and government);
  • balancing the needs of business and industry with the ability of contractors to service those needs; and
  • building capacity locally to enable the program to become self-perpetuating.

Within the first six months of the program, more than 200 businesses had signed up and been assessed by the program’s workplace mentor and more than 40,000 cubic metres of landfill space had been saved – about half the total volume of waste sent to landfill by the businesses assessed.

For further information about the project, refer to the <towardZero – reducing waste at work case study.>



To understand what barriers, opportunities and challenges there are to C&I recycling in your area, gather data from a range of sources. TowardZero program research is based on three areas: waste stream data, business data (including C&I and waste organisations servicing the area), and understanding the target audience.

Things to consider

  • What proportion of the waste stream does C&I contribute?
  • What is the makeup of this stream?
  • Are there ‘hot spots’ of activity or common business types that are contributing higher proportions of waste?
  • What organisations service the C&I sector, and how – where does their waste go?
  • How can existing resource infrastructure and recycling programs be used to support the priority waste areas identified?
  • What is stopping businesses from recycling more right now?

Local government waste management records will provide some insight to the C&I situation, but if you are working across council areas, it is possible that record keeping and measurement methods will differ. You may need to create or choose one reporting methodology that will enable comparisons.

Business data can be harder to accurately collate.  You will also need details and business plans, where available, of resource management companies and organisations servicing, operating in, or working near to the region. As this can be sensitive data, the level of detail you will have access to can vary.

A short survey may be required to gain an overview of existing recycling and waste practices in your target area. The CQLGA survey is available as part of the download documents from this guide.

Developing a business case

Creating a business case involves building on your preliminary research to develop a semi-formal or formal document outlining the business rationale or justification for proceeding with a project.

The business case usually provides critical information which allows key decision makers to make an informed decision about the proposed project. The purpose of the business case is to document the pros and cons, so the project ‘sells’ itself to those who may ultimately have to approve the project.

Your business case should:

  1. Clarify the reasons why the project is needed (financial, environmental and human e.g. community pressures)
  2. Outline the equipment and resources that will be required (with pros and cons of each)
  3. Provide an estimate of the financial position of the project (i.e. whether it is estimated that it will run a profit/loss/or break even)
  4. Describe the financial and staffing resources that will be required (from within the organisation and from other sources such as grants)
  5. Identify the principal risks (both internal and external) that will need to be addressed before commencing the project.

Learning from others

The area in which your program will operate is unique, however referencing waste reduction projects from within your organisation or using the towardZero — reducing waste at work case study may provide reassurance of the potential success of the program and identify areas that could be improved for your specific target audience.

For example:  in the CQLGA towardZero program it was noted that large supermarkets/chains, mines and shopping centres often had their own waste and resource management plans in place. While they were keen to participate in the program, they were not identified as key targets for the initial towardZero project.

Key points of learning from the CQLGA towardZero project:

  1. Establishing waste measurements in C&I may require some creativity
  2. Setting up tools for managing and capturing data is vital
  3. Focus on the business needs – a mentor approach



When you reach this step, you will have prepared a business case, had it approved by management and will be ready to start planning your project. STEP 2 — PLANNING requires you to think strategically about your project as you use our templates to develop a comprehensive plan.

The towardZero templates below and Guide will take you step by step through the goal-setting process, outcomes, SWOT analysis, basic program design and action plan for communications.  A range of tools and resources were created for the program, and these are made available to you to help you develop effective communications and plans.

Basic program design

A towardZero basic program design involves:

  1. Identifying targets
    Create a list of potential stakeholders/target businesses and how they can best be reached
  2. Communications
    Create and develop the marketing collateral, reporting elements and timeline behind the program to promote participation and ongoing commitment. A toolkit comprising all the marketing and communications tools used in this project is available to download below and as part of the full how to guide.
  3. Gaining commitment
    Businesses commit to putting the resources needed towards creating an action plan to improve recycling and reducing waste and assign a responsible manager – the ‘towardZero hero’.
  4. Workplace mentor
    Engage directly with businesses who commit to being a ‘towardZero workplace’
  5. Assessment
    Workplace mentor meets with the designated ‘towardZero hero’ after the commitment form is signed to conduct an onsite visual waste assessment and complete a waste situation analysis. The situation analysis provides a benchmark to enable the business to review progress.
  6. Equipment/infrastructure
    Provide equipment such as recycling boxes, bags and bins, stickers and posters and signage to support the business’ recycling efforts.
  7. Measurement, reporting and evaluation
    Milestones, objectives and reviews were measured and scheduled to ensure the project stayed on track. Use a database to capture assessment data.

The workplace mentor is critical to the towardZero program’s success:

  • provides direct support to businesses who commit to being a ‘towardZero workplace’
  • works with businesses to assess waste produced, identify needs, create an action plan and support the implementation of the action plan
  • provides infrastructure where appropriate
  • liaises with contractors in the region about service availability
  • collates data into a program-specific database for measurement and reporting back to the program and businesses.


  1. TEMPLATE: APC program plan template
  2. TEMPLATE: Waste assessment situation analysis used by workplace mentor
  3. EXAMPLE: towardZero communications plan timeline
  4. EXAMPLE: towardZero media schedule example
  5. ARTWORK: Catalogue of infrastructure to support the program
  6. ARTWORK: ZIP files of artwork that can be adapted to suit your project
  7. ARTICLE:Writing a design brief
  8. SURVEY: CQLGA survey used in preliminary research
  9. SURVEY: shopping centre waste


STEP 3 — IMPLEMENTATION involves enacting your plan to deliver the business recycling project you developed at STEP 2. We assume at this point that you have undertaken your research, prepared a business case, developed a plan, received approval to go ahead and are now ready to get started.

It is important to ensure your organisation’s management team is committed to the project – this will make things easier as you go along, particularly in terms of gathering stakeholder support and dealing with any issues that may arise.

Three key roles are established for the towardZero program — project co-ordinator, workplace mentor and communications manager — which need to be costed and staffed as part of the implementation.

Implementing a business recycling program

1.    Budget

  • How much funding can I ask for internally – how much needs to be sourced externally?
  • What funding has been provided – does this cover all project elements?
  • Have quotes been provided by key suppliers (print, media, communications consultants)?
  • What is the final budget for this program? And what contingencies?
  • Is there provision for hiring additional staff, or does this need to be outsourced?

2.    Resources

  • What resources can I use – do I need to outsource responsibilities?
  • Have a look at your existing team and determine if there are project elements that can be conducted internally (eg, database development, communications management, design support)?
  • Where can infrastructure/equipment be stored?
  • Who will manage the budget and invoicing?

3.    Timelines

  • How long will this program take to complete ideally – and realistically?
  • Is a pilot program warranted?
  • How much time will existing funding buy for the program?
  • What reporting mechanisms are required?

A good timeline will sit alongside existing waste strategy objectives and work back from there.

The full guide provides advice about setting KPIs for workplace mentors, looking at database and other information catchment and relationship management systems, embedding sustainability and managing the project.



STEP 4 — REVIEW provides the background to enable you to effectively plan to monitor and evaluate your project – and undertake this monitoring and evaluation.

Once you have business recycling project happening, it is time to turn your attention to identifying whether it is working as it was intended to work.

This section of the Guide discusses monitoring, evaluation, reporting and continuous improvement.

  • Monitoring involves collecting and analysing information along the way to tell you how the project is travelling.
  • Evaluation is the process by which we judge the worth or value of a project. What evidence is there that its outcomes have been achieved?
  • Reporting is about providing information to key people about the progress and/or results of a project.
  • Continuous improvement means that the project is constantly under review and that it will be enhanced as needed to ensure it continues to meet its objectives and aims.

For you to deliver an effective project, monitoring and evaluation:

  1. are integral components – particularly because businesses are their operating environment are constantly changing, so you will be learning as you go.
  2. will help you identify whether your project is working – you need to assess its impact, appropriateness and efficiency of your project.
  3. are essential to prove the credibility of your project, its business case and your professional credibility
  4. guide the development and implementation of further program-level and investment-level planning, as well as allowing you to tweak the current project
  5. utilises data that is relatively easy to collect and turn into evidence.

Checklist for evaluation

Throughout this step, the guide works on walking you through the following checklist:

  1. What outcomes (targets) are you trying to achieve?
  2. Who has the information you need to prove you are running an effective project?
  3. Are you able to get the information that you need to prove whether you have achieved your intended outcomes? This information might be about tonnages, it might be dollars, it might be about output, or it might be about community behaviour.
  4. How are you getting the information and is it flowing in regularly?
  5. What are you going to do with the information? Who are you reporting to and how?

The full guide provides you with some in-depth information about monitoring and evaluation to support you in developing a realistic, manageable and effective monitoring and evaluation system.


  1. REPORT: Does your project make a difference? 
  2. ARTICLE: Telling People Good News – Grahame Collier – WME Magazine
  3. ARTICLE: Everyone says it is great, but is it really working? – Grahame Collier – WME Magazine
  4. PDF: The complete how to guide: setting up a business recycling program


Download one of the Case Studies on introducing EPS Recycling

PDF file


Challenge Community Services

PDF File


Great Lakes Council

PDF File


HandyBin Waste Services

PDF File


Penrith City Council

PDF File


Shoalhaven Council

PDF File


Sydney Fish Markets

PDF Guide


Download a complete copy of the ‘Guide to Establishing EPS Recycling’

Zip file


Download the resources including the Business Case Financial Tools and Templates and Project Planning Templates. This file includes worked examples of each.

Zip file


Download a ZIP file containing artwork and imagery to assist with designing marketing and communications material to support your introduction of EPS recycling. This work by NSW EPA is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


This guide ws developed, designed and written by the Authors in collaboration with the NSW EPA, following extensive action research during the NSW EPA EPS Recycling Pilot Program in 2012-2013. The information in the Guide was written late in 2013 and early 2014. The authors designers and publishers accept no respoonsibility for omissions, exclusions, incorrect information contained in the guide or any of the supporting documents which may subsequently be found to be out of date. The information in the guide should not be taken as advice, and readers/users of the guide sould undertake their own research and seek their own counsel regarding any decision that may be made a as result of following the guidelines contained within.

Project partners

The project was administered by NSW EPA in conjunction with the Australian Packaging Covenant. Marketing, communications and education program development and project evaluation supported by Pat Armstrong Consulting, T Issues Consultancy and Mesch Engagement in 2012-2013.