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Simplified UI recycling system shows increase in recycling

BY DORA GROTE | SEPTEMBER 29, 2011 7:20 AM

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Officials say a simplified recycling system has increased recycling substantially on campus.

In a contract with Waste Management, University of Iowa officials implemented a single-stream recycling system that allows students, staff, and faculty to place all recyclable items into one container on Sept. 1.

Liz Christiansen, the director of the UI Office of Sustainability, said people collected 43,120 pounds of recyclables in the second week of implementation. The third week brought 50,340 pounds and the fourth 57,040 pounds.

In comparison, she said the weekly average for the 2010 school year was 47,282 pounds of recycled items.

Waste Management spokeswoman Carrie Spencer said that number increased 18 percent this year.

"Overall, it's still early, but we're seeing strong interest and a good response to the new recycling program," Christiansen said.

At the beginning of this month, officials placed the single-stream bins in buildings around campus.

UI recycling coordinator Bart Knox said officials are seeing few contaminants mixed with recyclable items, which is normally the general concern in single-stream recycling.

"Students, faculty, and staff are doing a fantastic job with keeping out materials that do not belong in single stream recycling," he said. "People are looking for the recycling container first and trash container second, instead of [the opposite] for most people most of their lives."

Ryan White, the Waste Management district manager, said officials are pleased with the UI's cooperation and adaptation to the program.

"We are excited to see that students, faculty and staff have embraced the program and thank them for their dedication to recycling," he said.

But Knox said there is always room for improvement. He said beverage containers, glass, and Styrofoam — items not accepted in single-stream recycling — were still found in the single-stream system. Also, a large amount of waste was still found in the Dumpsters.

Christiansen said, UI officials are working to make the system more effective.

"We will continue the transition to this program across campus," she said There is still some work to be done — labeling, container placement, education — but as we've stressed before, this is a phasing-in period throughout the fall."

Dave Jackson, the Facilities Management assistant to the associate vice president, said officials in UI departments and colleges are looking for options to increase the collection of recyclable materials in their areas.

Knox said the goal of single-stream is to maximize the recycling rate of applicable materials. They also aim to divert 60 percent of waste from the landfill to reach the UI's Vision 2020.

"The concept of sort-free recycling has been popularly accepted, and the campus community is engaged in the UI recycling and waste diversion goals," Jackson said.


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