Pollution Prevention Guides for 
Auto Body Shops - Fact Sheet 16

Office Waste

Solid and hazardous materials and wastes are not limited to the service area of an auto body shop. Cleaning products, white ledger paper, toner cartridges, and carpeting are just some of the materials administrative personnel work with every day. To help reduce waste in your office area:

  • Watch what you purchase
  • Reuse as much as you can on-site
  • Recycle what you cannot reuse


Paper is the largest waste stream component in the United States. It is also the easiest to recycle. In fact, many recyclers in Montana are paying for white ledger paper. Below are some ideas that you can use to reduce paper waste. Try to come up with some of your own.

  • Copy/print on both sides of the paper to save money on postage and paper
  • Reuse envelopes
  • Make scratch pads from used paper
  • Route, post in a central area, or electronically post memos instead of making individual copies
  • Save documents on hard drives or floppy disks instead of making paper copies
  • Donate old magazines to hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, etc. (ask first)
  • Donate used or leftover colored and white ledger paper to daycare centers and schools (ask first)


Packaging can also represent a large portion of an office's waste steam. Below are some ideas that you can use to reduce packaging waste. Try to come up with some of your own.

  • Order merchandise in bulk
  • Purchase products with little or no packaging
  • Ask your suppliers to use packaging that is reusable, recyclable, made from recycled materials, or has reduced packaging
  • Use reusable or recyclable containers
  • Reuse newspapers and shredded paper for packaging
  • Reuse foam packing peanuts, "bubble wrap," and cardboard boxes, or give to someone that will use it


Below are some ideas that you can use to reduce waste and conserve water and energy when purchasing equipment. Try to come up with some of your own.

  • Purchase refillable or recyclable toner cartridges and typewriter ribbons
  • Rent equipment that you use only occasionally
  • Establish a regular maintenance routine to prolong the life of office equipment and save energy
  • Purchase or rent energy-efficient equipment
  • Purchase or rent water-conserving equipment
  • Purchase solar powered equipment, such as calculators
  • Use rechargeable batteries where practical


Below are some ideas that you can use to reduce waste from your break room or lunchroom. Try to come up with some of your own.

  • Use reusable dishware, utensils, cups, etc., instead of disposable ones
  • Consider composting certain food wastes with your shop's yard waste (grass clippings, branches, etc.)
  • Buy in bulk (coffee, creamer, salt, pepper, etc.) and refill serving dispensers


Whether you use a cleaning service or your own crew to clean your office area, there is a potential for hazardous chemicals to be used on-site and waste to be generated and disposed of. Below are some ideas that you can use to reduce worker exposure to chemicals and waste. Try to come up with some of your own.

  • Buy less hazardous cleaning products in bulk form and refill smaller, labeled containers
  • If you have pest problems, contact your County Extension Service office (see your local telephone directory) for help in selecting less hazardous pest management strategies
  • Compost yard trimmings if possible. Check with your local solid waste authority for a municipal composter in your area
  • Choose a landscape design that needs low maintenance and low water requirements
  • Use a mulching lawnmower and leave grass clippings on the lawn for added nutrients

Office Wastes
1) Do you monitor purchasing and inventory decisions?

By keeping a sharp eye on what is purchased and how your inventory is used you can help keep hazardous materials out of your shop and prevent waste.

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2) Do you purchase products with less packaging?

Less packaging means less waste you have to pay to be landfilled. Instead, use reusable packaging or purchase products with little or no packaging.

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3) Do you purchase products made from recycled materials?

In order to "close the recycling loop," buy products with a high recycled content, preferably made from "post-consumer" materials.

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4) Do you use less toxic cleaning products in your shop's office?

Just as you do in your service area, you should use less toxic cleaning chemicals in your office area. Review the Material Safety Data Sheet for each product you may buy. Do not purchase products containing chlorinated compounds or having a flash point below 140F.

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5) Do you use reusable plates, utensils, and cups?

By purchasing reusable plates, utensils, cups, etc., you can save on purchasing and disposal costs. Make each employee responsible for cleaning up his or her plate, utensils, and cup.

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6) Do you print/copy on both sides of a page?

If you have more than one page of text to print, it is acceptable to print/copy on both sides of a page as a way of saving paper. Save one-sided paper for scratch paper or for interoffice memos.

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7) Do you recycle:
  • Aluminum Steel/Vehicles
  • Glass Paper
  • Plastics Newsprint
  • Cardboard Batteries

Most of the items listed above are recyclable in most communities. You might be able to get money from the recycling centers for some of these items.

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Montana State University Extension Service
Pollution Prevention Program Taylor Hall Bozeman, Montana 59717
(406) 994-3451
funded by
The United States Environmental Protection Agency
(Fact Sheet 16 of 18)

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