With bright blue receptacles and the words “Planet Blue” displayed in large text, the latest additions to the Diag are hard to miss.
Blue frames now deck six new recycling bins, which were placed beside trash cans around the Diag last week. The University plans to use the six bins as a trial run to see if students actually use them for recycling, according to Tracy Artley, sustainability programs coordinator for Plant Building and Ground Services at the University. If properly used, the goal is to eventually increase the number of recycling bins across campus.
Each recycling bin has a sign depicting the different materials that can and cannot be recycled. Items considered trash, such as sandwich wrappers and coffee cups, are represented on the sign with a red “no” placed over the illustrations, while pictures of recyclable materials such as paper flyers and plastic cups are below the word “yes.”
Last June, student volunteers sorted through trash cans on the Diag to determine if recyclable materials were being thrown in the trash, and they found that 50 percent of the trash was recyclable. The most common recyclable items they found were paper flyers and plastic cups and bottles.
“The (recycling) bins that are out there now are very material-specific and they use a lot of graphics,” Artley stated. “We’re hoping that being very specific, and using graphics will lead to much lower contamination rates so that their contents actually can be recycled.”
According to Artley, the University has a contract with the city of Ann Arbor’s recycling facility. Loads of recyclable materials have to be thrown out if more than 9 percent of the volume in each recycling bin is trash.
Eco-conscious volunteers tested the effectiveness of the recycling bins during EarthFest on Tuesday by sorting through the bins to compare waste versus recyclable items. According to Artley, 25 percent of the volume in the recyclable bins was trash — indicating that more education on recycling is necessary before more bins can be placed on campus.
“When they’re used as trash cans, we have to dispose of the contents as if it were trash, and then it looks like we’re not really recycling,” Artley said.
LSA senior Samantha Schiebold, a project manager for the University’s Student Sustainability Initiative, said the placement of the recycling bins was the result of a conversation between members of SSI, Michigan Student Assembly’s Environmental Issues Commission and LSA Student Government.
The three organizations were concerned about the lack of recycling bins near the Diag. Schiebold also started a petition in April to have recycling bins on the Diag. The petition garnered more than 700 signatures in its first three days.
In the future, Schiebold said she would like to see a one-to-one ratio of trash bins to recycle bins on campus because she thinks convenience will get more students to recycle.
“Most likely, students will not recycle just because it is inconvenient to do so,” she said. “By having the recycling bins very visible and very easy to use, it is going to divert a huge amount of recyclable materials from the landfill.”
LSA senior Cameron LaFleur said he has not seen the recycling bins on the Diag and doesn’t have a need for them, though he still supports the initiative.
“I have a CamelBak, so I don’t really have water bottles a ton,” he said. “But I think it’s a good thing for the environment and for the University.”
LSA freshman Christopher Hunt said he has noticed the blue bins because they stand out from the usual black trash bins.
“They are definitely brightly colored, and the signage is good,” Hunt said. “So they’re definitely promoting it, and I think it’s a great effort.”
Kinesiology senior Dan Ritter said he has used the recycling bins but didn’t notice the signs on top indicating which materials are recyclable and which are not.
“It’d probably be helpful if they made it more obvious,” Ritter said. “It’s a good idea, but for me it didn’t matter because they have recyclable bins in the building, and I would carry something — if I finished my drink outside — into the building.”
LSA sophomore Alexandra Brill said though she already knew what materials to recycle, she believes the images on the sign are helpful to students who aren’t accustomed to recycling.
“I think it’s great because I know that whenever I have something I need to recycle, I have to go inside a building to do it, but now that they’re outside it’s a lot easier,” Brill said.