UI cutting trash cans, adding recycling bins


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Some trash cans at the University of Iowa are on their way to the dump.

Following a university-wide effort last fall to condense recycling bins at the UI, Facilities Management officials said they're looking to cut back on garbage cans altogether and get students to throw more items into the blue bins.

"There are so many things that can be recycled now because of this new single-stream recycling," UI Student Government sustainability advocate Kelsey Zlevor said. "And a lot of those things were being found in the trash because it was hard for students to find recycling bins to throw these items into."

Zlevor said many UI sustainability advocates admit the university lags in its sustainability efforts, and removing trash containers will serve as a way to catch up.

Though she said she is unsure if other universities are removing trash cans, she knows other schools are using the methods.

In the first week of September 2011, the amount of recycling on campus was 18 percent higher than the average in 2010, she said.

Environmental engineering Professor Keri Hornbuckle said she supports the change.

"I think this is a great plan for the university to have," she said. "I have a recycling bin right outside of my office, and it's amazing. It makes recycling a lot more efficient, and people can treat these recycling bins almost like trash cans."

Every blue recycling bin on campus is used for single-stream recycling, in which most recyclables — including newspaper, magazines, cardboard boxes, glass, plastics, and aluminum — can be thrown in a single bin without having to be sorted.

UI junior Kat Williams said she was glad to see the change, having taken measures into her own hands before the single-stream method became more widespread.

"I use it all the time," she said. "I also see a lot of people using the recycling bins. Often, I do see people using the trash bin for recyclable, and I dig through the garbage and put bottles in their proper place."

The ongoing single-stream project is part of the UI's goal to reduce waste across campus by 60 percent before 2020, alongside projects such City Carton Recycling — which separates materials placed into single-stream outlets.

Students using the newly streamlined system would likely recycle more frequently, Hornbuckle said.

"I support this idea because I think it gets students to recycle more on campus," she said.

Don Guckert, the UI associate vice president for Facilities Management, agrees.

"I have to agree that this will be easier for the students," he said.

Patrick O'Shaughnessy, a occupational and environmental health professor who worked on a panel for 10 years to get single-stream recycling started, said he's pleased with the university's recent recycling and garbage removal efforts.

"I think it's great that it's finally happening," he said.

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