Offices everywhere are raking in the cash as they sweep up the trash. Recycling programs are becoming more common in corporate America, as businesses do well by doing good.

Experts once touted the advent of a paper-free workplace. Computer technology would turn companies into "electronic offices" in which paper would be unnecessary.Any working stiff today can tell you this concept never approached reality. Ironically, more waste paper is generated now by computers and other communications equipment, such as the fax machine. Offices generate hundreds of thousands of tons of waste paper each year, taxing the nation's already overburdened landfill system.

"If you're a progressive, socially responsible company, you just can't shrug your shoulders at that," said Burke Stinson, an AT&T district manager in New York. "By recycling, you help the environment and save money - it's an unbeatable formula."

In 1988, AT&T saved more than $1 million dollars in disposal costs and earned $365,000 more by recycling its waste paper instead of throwing it out.

Other companies are turning their trash into cash. Bank of America, Domino's Pizza, Federal Express, 3M , Whirlpool, Coca-Cola, Merrill Lynch and MCI have all recently instituted recycling programs. Recycling provides extra profits and also saves a bundle on collection and disposal costs.

It's no secret that the country has a growing waste disposal problem. During the last 10 years, more than 70 percent of U.S. landfills have been closed. In the next four years, 2,000 of the remaining 6,000 sites will be shut down. The Environmental Protection Agency believes 8 states will run out of landfill during the next 5 years, and 15 more states will be without disposal space in less than 10 years.

The government wants 25 percent of the nation's garbage recycled by 1992. Private estimates believe that figure will not rise above 15 percent. Many now believe state and local governments will become more involved in the recycling effort.

"Today we see church and Boy Scout programs concentrating on newspaper collections from private homes," said J. Rodney Edwards, spokesman for the American Paper Institute in New York. "In the near future, recycling will be a public enterprise, and we'll have more municipal curbside pick-ups."

Six states have already passed legislation forcing companies to recycle at least 50 percent of their garbage, and at least 20 more states are contemplating similar action.

However, companies are finding this task less daunting than it first appeared.

"About 85 percent of all business waste is paper," said Catherine Evans, project manager of the Office Paper Recycling Service, a not-for-profit consulting group in New York. "Companies that recycle only half their waste paper will be in compliance with the laws."

Starting a recycling program is not hard. Companies begin by placing receptacles around the office to separate different types of trash - white paper, cans, newspapers and other garbage.

"All you have to do is look in the Yellow Pages under waste paper," said Edwards, who has been involved in recycling since his Boy Scout days during World War II. "Find the closest dealer who is buying computer and sorted white paper from offices."

Contracts with scrap paper dealers are usually free, but you may still want to check the company before signing up.

"A good program has efficient removal and transportation procedures. Many dealers even provide the receptacles," Edwards said.

Evans believes business recycling is a growing movement because it makes sense for companies.

"If your company spends $60,000 a year on trash removal, and you recycle only half of your paper waste, then you have saved $30,000. The effect of cost avoidance is tremendous," explained Evans.

"However, don't think that people are starting to recycle just because of state laws or because it saves them money. Of the 175 companies we handle in New York, 150 were recycling before the state passed a law.

"We're becoming more aware of the environmental consequences of our actions. A lot of employers report that instituting a recycling program boosts employee morale," she said.

Burke Stinson was not surprised by AT&T's success. Employees were responsive, the company added revenue and the environment benefited.

"Recycling has become accepted as socially responsible," he said. "Now people automatically sort their paper into the right bins without thinking."

Stinson believes office recycling programs are only in their infancy.

"It takes a while, despite youthful exuberance, for these things to catch on," he said. "But now the so-called critical mass is more concerned with things like oil spills, acid rain and chemical pollution. There are enough people today with the environment near the front of their minds for recycling to really take off

"Twenty-five years ago, you did not have kids in families separating their newspapers and cans from the garbage. If you grow up in a house like that, it's not going to be unusual to recycle at work, too."