The University has revamped its recycling policy to emphasize their commitment to sustainability. The new recycling initiative is part of the University’s larger goal to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030.
The University is fully committed to improving the percentage of recycled waste and finding ways to make recycling easier. They plan on doing this through reducing the amount of contaminated recycled waste. Contamination can be defined as the food residue in containers, recyclables in plastic bags, and unrinsed glasses, among other factors. With this restriction in play, recycling facilities are having difficulty keeping the contamination percentage low. Therefore, viable recyclable material is ending up in landfills because of contamination restrictions.
Associate Vice President of Facilities and Sustainability Ken Ogawa puts the difficulty of recycling into perspective by explaining that recycling a plastic water bottle with water left inside and/or the lid left on would be considered contamination and would, therefore, be considered trash. In order to be successfully recycled, the bottle must be dried and the lid must be taken off to be recycled.
“We are still recycling, but now the main goal is to keep the materials clean and pure,” Ogawa said. Currently, the University operates on a single-stream recycling system — individuals place their recyclables into one container and a facility sorts through the materials; if the facility finds any contamination, the whole dumpster is considered trash.
With these new recycling policies active, students will have to pay attention to what they are recycling and the amount of contamination of the materials in the future. Plastic, paper, metal, cardboard, and glass should all be recycled, while food, napkins, paper towels, wrappers, straws, and compostable plates should all go in the garbage.
Moving forward, a recycling working group is being developed. According to Ogawa, this program will help “people adapt while withstanding changes in the industry.”
Dining Services has embraced the waste reduction initiative. The new reusable containers available in Bostwick Marketplace, paper bags in the Bison, and reusable mug sticker program all lessen the amount of food waste.
Students expressed support for the University’s goal of carbon neutrality given the circumstances. “The main thing that I want to see would be to reduce the waste that we create since recycling isn’t really that viable,” Maggie Barton ’21 said.