Recycling bins replace trash cans in new Low Waste Initiative

Assistant Director of Campus Facilities Matthew Maher: “The new program will hopefully raise awareness about what can be recycled.”
Photo illustration of new recycling and waste basket combination.

Campus Facilities began replacing trash cans with recycling bins that have a small trash compartments attached in all MU buildings this summer. The last stage of this 10-week initiative will finish next week, with 10 buildings shifting to the new system, Director of Campus Facilities Caroline Elizabeth Dohack said in an email.

MU Campus Facilities planned to initiate its Low Waste Initiative this summer in a single building, but was given an opportunity to launch the program on a much greater scale.

“We planned on beginning the program in Jesse Hall to see how it worked there first, but we were given a budget that allowed us to replace all trash cans around campus,” Sustainability Office assistant Hannah Peterson said.

This system is meant to standardize recycling collection across all campus buildings.

“Before this new Low Waste Initiative movement, each office building recycling was handled based on a volunteer basis, and there was really no rhyme or reason to it, so we were really looking for a more uniformed way to recycle around campus,” said Matthew Maher, assistant director of Campus Facilities.

Campus Facilities will no longer remove trash from individual offices around campus, but instead will have three different bins in central locations of the building — one for paper products, aluminum and glass; one for all types of plastic; and one for trash.

Each office will dispose of its own waste in the common area bins, where custodial staff will then collect it.

Maher hopes the smaller trash compartment will encourage users to think about how they can recycle more.

“Over 70-80 percent of our waste can be recycled, so we are hoping that by making people have to sort their own recyclables that they become aware of just how much can actually be recycled,” Maher said.

Peterson said the low-waste program will be more cost-effective for the university in the long run.

“It will not take long to cover our initial costs, due to not having to pay for the liners in the trash cans and for the extra custodial help in the offices,” Peterson said.

Dohack said that MU had the program in works for a number of years, trying to cut back on solid waste costs, which had been escalating.

“For [fiscal year 2016], MU’s landfill costs were almost $600,000,” Dohack said in the email. “Meanwhile, an audit of a representative sample of campus buildings showed that about one-third of the materials people were throwing away were recyclable. So, a recycling program like this made sense from both ecological and economical perspectives.”

However, the program became a higher priority after the budget cuts were announced.

Peterson said the low-waste program will make MU a more informed campus on the waste management side.

“We want to make Mizzou a more cohesive campus by color-coding the different recycling bins, making it easier for people to differentiate between plastics, paper, aluminum and glass,” Peterson said.

MU wants to cut down on the waste production and increase recycling as a whole.

“As a university, our average recycling rate is 28 percent; whereas, the national average is 34 percent, and personally, I find this to be unacceptable,” Peterson said.

Edited by Kyra Haas | khaas@themaneater.com

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