On Thursday Jan 30, UNO public relations sent out an email to students, faculty and staff announcing that the full recycling program has resumed. With bins and dumpsters located across campus now offering students the opportunity to drop off plastic, paper, aluminum and cardboard, it is more convenient than ever for students to help the environment.
“Recycling is the right thing to do in terms of minimizing our carbon footprint and sending fewer items to the landfill,” says Dr. Carolyn Golz, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs. “Many cities and campuses encourage recycling in their communities and we’re happy to offer this option as one of our sustainability initiatives across campus.”
As Golz explains, UNO’s four recycling dumpsters are funded by student government and provided by Republic Services recycling center. On a regular basis, smaller recycling bins in buildings are collected and emptied into the larger dumpsters. Republic Services then brings the dumpsters’ contents to the recycling plant where items are sorted. The problem with this program, however, began when Republic Services decided that UNO’s items were too contaminated to be viable for recycling.
“At the end of 2019, we were informed by Republic Services that they would only be able to accept cardboard for recycling beginning January 1, 2020,” says Golz. “Unfortunately, contamination of recycling items is a major issue. One half-full bottle of water or soda in a dumpster can ruin the entire load of recycling, and it’s not uncommon for folks to use recycling containers as trash cans. When we reached out to Republic Services, they explained why they switched to cardboard only recycling but through conversation, they were willing to give us another chance.”
For UNO, having another chance at recycling means that contamination of recyclable materials must be eliminated in order to keep the program running. Golz believes this is a matter of educating students on the need to recycle properly. One way to do this is with educational posters, which will soon be seen around campus, especially around recycling bins and dumpsters.
“We’re resuming recycling of plastic, aluminum, and paper, in addition to cardboard,” says Golz. “We’re working harder to educate the campus community about the importance of recycling only CLEAN, DRY, material that fits in these categories. If it’s not clean, or if it’s not dry, it needs to go in the garbage. Campus messaging and posters near recycling containers in buildings are designed to help educate the campus community about HOW to recycle.”
With these educational efforts, UNO hopes the recycling program will remain a viable and convenient choice for students. And more than that, they hope students will continue to make choices to help the environment on campus and off.
“Recycling is important and we hope that students, faculty, and staff will take the time to drop their clean, dry recycling items in the appropriate recycling bins,” says Golz. “However, recycling isn’t the only way to reduce our carbon footprint. We also encourage folks to think twice before buying a single-use item – instead of buying a case of 12-oz water bottles, consider getting a reusable water bottle and filling it at a water fountain. Use reusable shopping bags, rather than plastic bags at the grocery store. When possible, walk, ride a bike or use public transportation rather than driving. These are just a few examples of ways that we can all minimize our impact on the earth.”