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Brandeis aims to double campus recycling rate

Brandeis is upgrading its recycling program across campus, according to Mary Fischer, Brandeis’ manager of sustainability. The plan to revamp the system will happen in two steps, the first to be completed by the end of February and the second by the end of March.

The first step of the sustainability project will upgrade the recycling system in the Humanities Quad, Heller and all residence halls. Near the end of March the rest of campus will see the same changes.

The goal of the program is to double the recycling rate at Brandeis by the end of 2016, according to Fischer. The national average recycling rate for universities is 40 percent of waste, but as of 2015 Brandeis’ recycling rate landed at only 20 percent. By doubling Brandeis’ rate, the university’s recycling rate is expected to match the national average.

The sustainability project plans to meet its goals in three steps. The first is to match every trashcan on campus with a recycling bin, calling it “bins are besties.” The initiative encourages the Brandeis community to work together, including contacting facility services if any trash cans are seen without a recycling bin “bestie.”

“​It’s not a question of new bins, actually, it’s simply deploying the bins we already have in more strategic and logical places,” said Fischer in an email to The Brandeis Hoot. “There were very few places where new bins were needed, so this has been a low investment-high impact initiative,” she said.

Second, every recycling bin will be clearly labeled with what type of trash can be recycled.

“Every inch of each sign is deliberate- every picture and every word,” said Fischer. “We are calling the trash ‘the bin of last resort’ to remind people that so much of what we use on campus every day is recyclable.” The signs will also contain facts on the economics of recycling (half as expensive to haul as trash) and a reminder to remove liquid or food scraps from items before recycling.

The lids of recycling bins are also going to be removed in the new initiative. Fischer explained that bin lids with different slots confuse recyclers and do not properly explain that every bin can take all recyclable waste, thanks to a process called single-stream recycling.

Students have picked up on the university’s issues with recycling. “I feel like there aren’t a lot of places to recycle,” said Chaya Shapiro ’17. Shapiro also thought that Brandeis should “provide more recycling bins in the dorms and dining halls.”

Laura Broffman ’18, an environmental studies major, thinks the current recycling program could be upgraded. “It definitely works but is not accessible everywhere on campus,” she said. Broffman believes the new program would be a welcomed improvement, saying, “I think the new program sounds great, and solves the problem of there being trash cans available and not recycling.”

The new initiative will continue Brandeis’ practice of single-stream recycling, which has been the focus of some controversy in the past. In 2008 Brandeis began single-stream recycling, which allows for paper, plastics, metals and all containers to be mixed in bins, according to a Hoot article from March 2015. The waste is then separated later between recyclable and non-recyclable materials. This can lead to a lower rate of recycling due to contamination or mistakes in the sorting process, according to The Hoot’s article. However, because all products go together, it makes the process simpler.

Fischer is the first consistent sustainability coordinator that Brandeis has had since 2012 when the position was filled shortly by an interim coordinator. Brandeis did not appoint another coordinator after the interim coordinator until Fischer arrived this past July.

“Nothing about Brandeis is average, and our sustainability initiatives should not be an exception,” said Fischer.

Students received an email on Feb. 22 about the new recycling program which made it clear that the success of the program is largely dependent on the cooperation of the Brandeis community. “Everyone must do their part,” wrote Fischer.

In the message, she set a semester goal of increasing the recycling rate at Brandeis to 30 percent by this summer. “Simply communicating the fact that our performance in this very basic, simple action is far below our peers has been key to opening people’s eyes that we need to start paying attention to our personal impacts,” said Fischer.

“Everyone knows recycling is good, what I think the school needs to do is raise awareness of the importance of it and provide reminders to recycle,” said Broffman.

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