As RTI International prepared to move more than 600 staff members to a new office building on its campus in Research Triangle Park, N.C., earlier this year, it decided to try to limit the amount of discarded material that ended up in the landfill. The research firm ended up diverting more than 42 tons that otherwise would have gone to the landfill and donating 8 tons of supplies to local schools and non-profit groups.
The company’s Corporate Sustainability Council started by setting up large cardboard bins in the buildings being vacated and asking staff members to use the bins for supplies they were discarding. Movers transported the materials to an RTI warehouse, where 70 employee volunteers sorted through the office supplies, and discarded electronics equipment and appliances at lunch time or over the weekend.
“People started to get enthusiastic when they realized this wasn’t just a small amount,” says Jennifer MacKethan, senior manager for enterprise risk management and corporate sustainability at RTI. “This was just a vast amount of materials that were diverted.”
Twenty tons of materials were donated to Scrap Exchange, an organization that provides materials for artists and educators; for example, the exchange took printer cables and used them to make baskets. RTI’s recycling vendor disposed of 14.4 tons of recyclables.
And once the volunteers sorted through everything and laid out reusable office supplies on tables at the warehouse, the Council held four “shopping days” at which local schools and United Way agencies could take whatever they could use. Classy Williams, a sustainability and electrical engineer at RTI, notes that employees were pleased that the schools were benefitting.
“The purpose of doing this was to reuse as much as we could,” Williams says. “We call it our recycling program, but reuse was a high priority.”