IC Press-Citizen: Recycling surges at UI
October 10, 2011
By Emily Schettler, Iowa City Press-Citizen
One month into a new recycling program, University of Iowa officials say they are pleased by the initial spike in participation on campus.
The school transitioned to a sort-free form of recycling at the beginning of the school year, and so far it appears to have made an impact on people's willingness to recycle, said Liz Christiansen, director of the UI Office of Sustainability.
Christiansen said recycling increased more than 9 percent from September 2010 to September 2011, from 242,965 pounds of waste recycled to 266,356 pounds.
"We're very happy about how that is working out," Christiansen said. "We know those numbers can be affected by many things, and we know these are early results, but we feel sort-free is easier for people to participate in."
UI and the city of Iowa City both changed to simplified methods recently in an effort to encourage more people to recycle and divert more waste from the landfill.
The city of Coralville still asks residents to sort their recycling by material, a process city Recycling Coordinator Ed Bowers said people are receptive to.
In the past at UI, recycling had to be separated by material, such as plastics, paper, tin and cardboard. Now it can all go into the same container.
The change has been successful at other schools, Christiansen said, and was prompted at UI as part of the school's efforts to increase its waste diversion to 60 percent by 2020.
Before switching to the sort-free system, the waste diversion was at between 25 and 40 percent, Christiansen said.
In Iowa City, which implemented a dual stream system in April, results have been mixed, Recycling Coordinator Jennifer Jordan said.
"It's been up and down over the last few months," she said.
In the past, residents had to sort their recycling into six areas. Now they can sort items into two categories, fiber, which includes all paper and cardboard products, and containers, including plastics and metal.
Once it's collected, city staff sorts the recycling into the six areas before it is delivered to local recycling company City Carton.
"Many saw it as a waste of time and a burden," Jordan said of the old system. "We've tried to eliminate that by having staff complete that process."
So far, Jordan said it hasn't cost the city any more to have staff do the work themselves, although if recycling increases significantly, it could.
The program will be evaluated after one year to see if it is effective in encouraging greater participation.
"It we don't see something of an increase, we will look to other alternatives," Jordan said. "But other alternatives might have a cost associated with them."
Christiansen said UI could potentially save money on its program if enough material is diverted into recycling.
That's because the school is charged five cents per pound for recycling and seven cents per pound for landfill waste.
The university also has a recycling program, known as the University of Iowa Surplus for used materials such as desks, filing cabinets, electronics, medical equipment and even vehicles.
UI Surplus collects the items and sells them through the surplus store, eBay and local auction houses.
From July 2010 through May 2011, the university made $237,500 in revenue with the surplus and saved $16,000 on avoided landfill costs, Christiansen said.
SOURCE: Iowa City Press-Citizen. Please click here for the originial story.