All in one bin: Campus moves to single stream recycling

Call it recycling 2.0. This month, the campus is moving to single stream, in which paper, along with clean plastic, glass, aluminum and steel containers and bottles, can be placed in one bin for pick-up by the Office of Waste Management.
The change also means that faculty and staff can put all of their recyclables in a single deskside bin and have it collected by custodial staff on Tuesdays and Thursdays, according to John Pepi, the campus’ solid waste manager.
In addition, deskside trash pick-up will take place on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
“We’re hoping single stream leads to a higher level of participation in our recycling program,” said Pepi, who said the current rate for bottles, cans, paper and cardboard is about 28 percent. “We’ve got some room to improve. Fifty or 60 percent in offices would be a good target.”
The single stream program is also being implemented in residence halls, laboratories and classrooms and the list of accepted materials is also expanding. For the first time, paperboard, such as cracker or gift boxes, clean pizza boxes, clear plastic clamshell containers like those from deli counters, and empty, non-chemical aerosol cans be recycled.
To avoid sanitary issues, Pepi advises recyclers to rinse out beverage and food containers before placing them in deskside bins. Otherwise, they should be placed in classroom or bathroom binds, which are picked up daily.
While single stream is not a new concept, Pepi said the campus’s transition to the model was prompted partly by new regional facilities and the opportunity for efficiencies. Waste Management, Inc. has made its sorting facility available to communities that take their recyclables to the state’s Materials Recycling Facility (MRF) in Springfield.
Previously, Pepi’s staff had to make two pick-ups of recyclables at 150 campus sites. With single stream, the trips are cut in half, “making up for one full-time employee or more,” he said. There will also be some savings on fuel since fewer trucks are needed.
While the campus will lose some revenue on recycling high-grade paper, Pepi sid that should be offset somewhat by efficiency. Plus, under the contract with the MRF, the campus doesn’t pay any tipping fees for recyclables.
Over the past weeks, said Pepi, custodial staff have been relabeling recycling bins and new gray toters have been placed outside some buildings. Eventually, the familiar red and blue toters will be replaced campus-wide. The transition will continue through the end of the month, he said.