Single-stream makes recycling mainstream

| Contributing Reporter

New signs in Bear’s Den emphasize sustainability by highlighting all the products that can be recycled.

New signs in Bear’s Den emphasize sustainability by highlighting all the products that can be recycled.

In the past year, Washington University’s recycling program has gotten a new design that makes it simpler for students to be environmentally responsible.

The University’s recycling program has been streamlined to feature a more efficient single-stream recycling method. Single-stream recycling allows all recyclable objects, which are anything but food, liquids and Styrofoam, to be recycled together in one bin.

“It’s very convenient. Almost everything can go in the recycling bin and requires less thought. It results in more recycling,” sophomore Rachel Chung said.

While many students see the benefits of the recycling method, not all find it helpful.

“It’s my first time living in the U.S., and I think it’s kind of too unclassified in a way,” freshmen Jin Park said. “I don’t see a distinction between the recycling and the landfill and the compost. It seems like I can throw everything in one place without realizing what I’ve done wrong.”

Administrators note the value of the new, streamlined method.

“With the single stream, the beauty of that is, just about everything can go…We used to separate mixed paper versus co-mingled containers versus cardboard. Now, that can all be processed into one container,” Donna Hall, the University’s environmental compliance manager, said.

The mixed recycling is picked up from the various locations across campus, and it is transported to a single-stream recycling facility, where it is sorted into groups such as cardboard, metal, paper, plastic and glass.

According to Hall, almost everything sent to a single-stream recycling facility is recycled. The only exception is recyclables that have been contaminated, which are sent to a landfill.

He says that the single-stream process is more efficient for the University.

“[Because of the single-stream approach,] we’ve been able to really get a lot more efficiency in our [recycling] collection,” Hall said. “We used to have tons of…big trash toters everywhere at the docks, and we’ve been able to replace that now with recycling dumpsters.”

The efficiency that single-stream provides allows the University to spend more money on making the recycling program accessible to students. The University is trying to install two recycling bins for every garbage bin and to make recycling bins more visible.

“[In previous years,] we had a lot of comments from the students saying there wasn’t enough recycling available in the trash rooms,” Hall said. “One of the changes for this fall was to try and increase that number and see if just providing that volume available for recycling would increase the diversion for students,” Hall said.

According to students, the addition of more recycling bins is noticeable on campus.

“Everywhere you want [a recycling bin,] there is one. I’ve never had a problem finding a recycling bin. If anything, I might have a problem finding a trash can,” senior Sarah Wymer said.

According to Hall, this increased visibility will lead to more consistent recycling.

“The easier we make it for individuals to choose recycling over choosing something going into the trash, they’ll take the recycling option,” Hall said.

Sign up for the email edition

Stay up to date with everything happening as Washington University returns to campus.