When I moved into Bursley Residence Hall my freshman year, I distinctly remember reading a sign in the trash room at the end of my hall stating, “Here in University Housing, we recycle!” Sure, there were separate bins marked for paper, cardboard, plastic and waste, but did this imply that the recycling system set in place was efficient? All the bins in the trash room were tan and indistinguishable until I looked closely to determine what material belonged in each bin. Although I made a conscious effort to sort my trash, I often found trash in the recycling bins and vice versa.
Luckily, the University has since made the switch to single-stream recycling, so the days of sorting waste into different recycling bins are history. However, the recycling bins on campus have not been updated to reflect this switch. From the Modern Language Building to Angell Hall, I still see the visually displeasing tan bins indicating paper, plastic or waste. A lack of uniformly labeled recycling bins has led to general confusion in the student body. Although some of the bins have lids that help students better understand what waste goes where, this form of identification needs to be updated.
For example, some of the recycling bins in the UGLi have rectangular lids, implying that paper can be placed in the bin. This conflicts with the idea of single-stream recycling because it sends a message to students that trash must still be sorted. The beauty of single-stream recycling is its simplicity, so there should be a University-wide effort to make recycling bins more distinguishable from trashcans.
I am not suggesting that the University needs to replace the current recycling containers. The University could instead update the existing recycling bins by painting them blue and attaching clear, single-stream recycling signs. Single-stream recycling has already become more apparent in the Diag due to theprominent blue bins with informative signs indicating what can be placed in the bins. Updating the bins in University buildings would help to increase the volume of materials recycled at the University while also promoting a general understanding of recycling.