I suggest that all agencies begin an “Office Supplies Reuse Program” - this can both save money (office supplies are expensive!) and promote "green" practices by reducing waste and keeping items out of landfills.
Problem: When agency personnel clean out their offices the hallways become littered with dumpsters full of only slightly used binders, tape dispensers, file organizers, desk furniture, pens, pencils, accordion folders, and many other office supplies that still have a lot of use left in them. Additionally, many of the binders still have reams of paper in them, which could be recycled.
Solution: Instead of throwing out the office supplies and small furniture and instead of fellow employees dumpster diving if they have the chance, all the items could be taken to a supply reuse room for the “Office Supplies Reuse Program.” There they can be sorted for redistribution or recycling as appropriate. When agency personnel are in need of office supplies, they can check to see what the reuse room has available before waiting for the next budget or continuing resolution to pass to place a formal order for new supplies.
How It Would Work: The “Office Supplies Reuse Program” would operate a “store front” for a few hours a week where agency personnel can drop off their unwanted office materials and others can find the items they need. Office supplies could be made available free of charge, or a nominal fee could be charged with the proceeds donated to a local nonprofit or even to the agency’s childcare program to keep day care affordable for its employees.
How to Staff It: Running an “Office Supplies Reuse Program” would be quite simple. It could be staffed by one or two people who maintain the stock, inventory and serve as points of contact for information on the program. These staff would not need to be assigned to the “Office Supply Reuse Program” full time, but could manage it as part of their overall responsibilities. Another possibility for running the “Office Supplies Reuse Program” is to have it staffed by volunteers. Here at my agency we are allowed 8 hours a month for volunteer work; with permission from their bosses, employees dedicated to minimizing waste and cutting costs can have the opportunity to give back and save the government money.
Additional Benefits: Giving office supplies a second life will clearly cuts costs in each agency’s budget, and it will also allow federal employees to do our part in reducing our nation’s dependence on petroleum products, since a vast majority of office supplies are made from non-recyclable petroleum products otherwise destined for a landfill.
Thanks for considering this idea, I hope to see it put into action!