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Reformed UI recycling system is substantial, beneficial advancement

BY DI EDITORIAL STAFF | AUGUST 29, 2011 7:20 AM

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For those who see recycling as an inconvenience, you just ran out of an excuse. Recycling is about to get a whole lot easier at the University of Iowa.

On Thursday, the UI will implement a single-stream recycling system in which students will no longer have to separate recyclables. Instead, students will be permitted to place all recycled materials into one convenient container.

While the DI Editorial Board has consistently lauded sustainable efforts on and around campus, we see these latest changes being made to the recycling system as some of the best moves the university has made in regards to recycling in recent memory. This is an earnest approach that further simplifies the recycling process for students, faculty, and staff. In doing so, this movement will be a good incentive in encouraging students to recycle more frequently, because it almost effortless. In addition, we commend ECO Hawk and its latest efforts and hope that it will help us work to meet our sustainability goals for 2020.

Liz Christiansen, the director of UI Sustainability, believes that the latest recycling system will help motivate students to recycle more, because it no longer requires the same level of sorting recycled materials needed previously.

“I think that single-stream recycling offers the opportunity for us to capture more materials,” said Christiansen. “We think people will be recycling more.”

Currently, the UI’s goal is to achieve a 60 percent diversion rate by 2020 in order to meet its sustainability target, meaning the goal is to divert 60 percent of waste from traditional waste facilities or incineration to recycling plants or other reuse initiatives.

In order for this to happen, the UI will need to double its current rates. “We think these changes will help us achieve that goal,” Christiansen told the Editorial Board.

Desire Christensen, the vice president of ECO Hawk, appeared very optimistic about the 2020 sustainability target as well.

“I believe we will exceed our goal of 60 percent waste diversion from the landfill,” she said.

The traditional antagonist to recycling efforts at the UI has been, and will continue to be, apathetic college students — a demographic that can have trouble keeping in mind what is due in class the next day, let alone how current actions will affect the environment of our future leaders. This is where this reformation succeeds the most, by making recycling increasingly effortless. By improving the infrastructure of the recycling process, the university is making it inconvenient not to recycle.

Unfortunately, that same climate of convenience does not currently exist in Iowa City residences. This is why local eco-activists cannot be content with this admittedly dramatic improvement. There is a lot more work to be done.

However, Christensen believes the new contract with Waste Management will have positive, far-reaching effects in our area. “Many opportunities have opened up for ECO Hawk to educate the UI community through this partnership. Our interactions with the Waste Management team have been engaging, and we have been able to bounce a lot of ideas back and forth,” she told The Daily Iowan.

And according to recycling-revolution.com, college campuses that make a collective effort can make a difference on the environment when recycling properly. For instance, just one year of recycling at Stanford University had the ability to save “the equivalent of 33,913 trees and the need for 636 tons of iron, ore, coal, and limestone.”

Other schools, such as Drake University, have implemented the new system, and Kirkwood Community College plans to do so in September.

This new system should be viewed as somewhat of a prototype, to be applied in public areas, buildings, and residences. The benefits will ultimately be unprecedented.

Because hey — it doesn’t get much easier than this.


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