Mizzou Store increases recycling effort

New recycling programs helped reduce waste from 9,500 textbook orders

In 2014, agencies across the state of Missouri recycled 6,985 tons of material, according to the Missouri State 2014 Annual Recycling report.

This year, the Mizzou Store hopes to add to that figure by implementing several new programs meant to reduce the amount of waste the store produces, specifically with its textbook ordering program. This year, 5,000 students used the Early Bird Textbook Reservation service and another 4,500 ordered their books online through the Mizzou Store website.

In the past, employees packaged books in boxes that were subsequently given to students.

But the Mizzou Store has been trying something different for the fall 2015.

Employees stored the books in boxes before pickup and transferred them to a reusable bag or plastic bag upon purchase. Michelle Froese, the assistant director for strategic communications for student and auxiliary services, said only five students asked to keep their box, which meant the Mizzou Store was able to keep the surplus of boxes for future book orders.

“We order a lot of plastic bags and we order a lot of cardboard boxes,” Froese said. “We’ve explored this for a long time but finding a bag that could bear the weight of textbooks is just hard. It’s not just supporting the weight of two books, it has to support seven or eight.”

The store eventually found a vendor to supply reusable bags that could bear the weight of textbooks. However, due to poor weather conditions overseas, the store didn’t receive all the reusable bags in time, which is why books were put into plastic bags.

Froese said the store didn’t receive any negative response to the bags.

“This seemed to have worked and was well-received by students,” Froese said. “We didn’t have any students who said, ‘Oh, I don’t want that,’ so that’s good.”

The use of reusable bags wasn’t the only policy that the Mizzou Store implemented. It also put out a collection bin for recycling plastic bags in front of the store’s entrance. According to Froese, the store plans to send the bags it collects back to the manufacturer so that they can be reused to make new bags.

“Our plastic bag vendor is Regal Poly-Pak and they have a program where you basically collect the bags and send them back,” Froese said. “Their bags are 50 percent waste, so at least some of (what we’re sending) is going back into the bag.”

Amy Eultgen, an advisor for the Environmental Leadership Office, supported the Mizzou Store’s changes.

“The changes the Mizzou Store made are a great stride in making our campus more sustainable,” Eultgen said in an email. “It encourages students to think refill versus landfill.”

Eultgen also said the changes will help MU become even more environmentally friendly.

“These decisions and actions affect our campus’ overall sustainability efforts, because it illustrates that an environmentally friendly action is not just recycling,” Eultgen said. “While that can be viewed as the gateway to sustainability, there are so many more ways to be conscious about the decisions we make in our everyday lives.”

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