Eco-Mind: Recycling Can’t Get Any Easier

A change has been made in the recycling system here at the University of Vermont-no longer will students need to separate paper and containers when recycling because now everything can be recycled together! The hope is that this method will prevent contamination of the recycling bins with trash and increase the overall amount of material recycled on campus.

Recycling is certainly not a new activity in the city of Burlington. In 1989, the city began a residential curbside recycling pilot project that served 3,000 residential units. 13 years later, in 2002, the number of residential units served was about 13,500. Currently, sanitation trucks around the city make a total of 1,000 to 1,500 stops daily which equates to 85-90 percent of households in Burlington.

Recycling began at UVM in 1992 when all the trash chutes in the residence halls were closed, and three barrels (one for trash, one for recyclable containers, and one for recyclable paper) were put on every floor. Now, food waste from all dining halls is composted and recycling receptacles exist all over campus.

The only excuse to not recycle is not making the effort to walk to the recycling bins, which are conveniently located almost everywhere!

In 2003, the city joined the Chittenden Solid Waste District (CSWD) in converting from a co-mingled system to single stream, or “all-in-one” recycling system.

Now, UVM is also converting to the single stream system. This means that all recyclable materials on campus can be thrown in the same bin.

Once they leave campus, recyclables go to the Material Recovery Facility in Williston where the materials are separated in a complex mechanized system. Conveyor belts move the items in bulk, while magnets pull out metal items, blowers separate loose paper, and workers go through items by hand to make sure they are sorted correctly. The different items are sold to manufacturers across the country: paper is sent off to become newspaper, plastics go on to become plastic lumber, glass is crushed and used to pave roads, and aluminum, the most valuable item at the facility, is melted down to become anything from another can to a part of a car.

To promote the new recycling system, the Eco-Reps have worked with the Recycling Office to change the signs and stickers on and around all trash and recycling bins in the dorms. Reading some of the new posters, as well as contacting your Eco-Rep with any questions, can help clarify the new recycling policies.

Short of having a butler monkey to take your can and recycle it for you, it really doesn’t get much easier than this.

If you’re transporting recyclables from your room to a recycling bin in the hallway, you don’t even have to separate the paper bag from the cans and bottles. For those people who, for whatever reason, can’t bring themselves to contemplate anything they throw away, at least the single-stream system cuts down the number of different barrels to two (trash and recycling), helping to prevent the accidental paper in the containers bin or vice versa. Even a butler monkey can get this right.