Much of the waste generated each day occurs in the home environment and, for a segment of a university's population, the home environment falls within university housing areas. University housing facilities are more than residential facilities. They include food services, administrative offices, and purchasing. It is this composition that makes university housing a microcosm of the larger campus community, thereby providing an essential area for waste reduction and recycling that can serve as a model to the rest of campus. There is tremendous waste recovery and reduction and education potential within these buildings. Including housing department administrators in planning processes is integral to successful waste reduction efforts on campus.
Assessing and addressing the educational and operational needs of the various groups living and working in university housing areas create a path to long-term recycling success. For example, administrative, maintenance, custodial, and kitchen staff oftentimes carry over from year to year and can easily incorporate recycling into daily operations. Subsequently, these staff groups benefit most from periodic education which focuses on recycling materials specific to their work. In contrast, students who are new to the responsibility of handling their own garbage and recycling need more detailed education about what and how to recycle when they arrive on campus at the beginning of the new academic year.
Audit the Waste Stream
The volumes and types of materials generated within the numerous areas across campus can differ greatly. By addressing the waste streams stemming from each area, recycling and overall waste reduction can be very successful in university housing locations. An easy way to do this is through observation. Walk around housing areas, look in dumpsters, and observe which items are easily recyclable, have markets, and are generated in large quantities. As mentioned, university housing is a microcosm of a small city. Typically, these areas generate the same materials that are already being collected on campus. An in-depth waste audit can be done to gather further information. See Chapter 6: Solid Waste Audits for detailed steps on how to perform a waste audit.
Housing Food Service Areas
Housing food service areas typically include several large cafeterias, fast food venues, and often catering operations for events. For more information about institutional kitchen recycling, see Chapter 25: Recycling in the Kitchen.
Food services on college campuses are changing. Housing departments are following suit and diversifying the dining options available to students, particularly those living on-campus. Many campuses are moving away from offering only dine-in, buffet-style meals served on reusable dishware. Incorporating convenience into food services has become a main focus. Cafes and convenience stores, where students can purchase pre-packaged, single-serving products and a la carte items, have become commonplace.
The shift from reusable dishware and kitchen prepared meals to single-serving, disposable food products undoubtedly has a huge impact on all aspects of waste generation in housing areas. Increased trash generation is typical due to disposable dining ware and non-recyclable food packaging, but greater recycling potential emerges as well due to changing on-campus food services trends.
It is important to pay attention to food service areas and to monitor any changes in the waste stream. Garbage is increasingly expensive to manage and university housing departments pass these costs along to students. Waste reduction efforts in housing food service areas is an important area to focus on because it can significantly lower waste management costs while contributing to a healthier environment.
Reduce Waste in Housing Food Service Areas
...AND VOILA! A win-win situation for all...waste reduction that literally costs the University Housing Department next to nothing to establish, while monetary savings from waste will be notable.
How to Build a Recycling Program in Campus Residence
In order to build a recycling program in campus residence halls, it is important to:
Enlisting the Residents and Student Staff
Getting the student population on board with the recycling effort is an important aspect of ensuring the recycling program's success in housing areas.
Recycling Operations in Housing Areas
There are several important factors to consider when establishing recycling collection in housing areas.
Central, Convenient Locations
Locate potential interior and exterior sites that would be convenient for residents to use. The optimal scenario is to site recycling next to or near trash collection containers. This step minimizes the amount of trash contamination in recycling containers. Additionally, identify areas that are visited frequently by residents and are highly visible. Be creative with collection. Set up collection that is appropriate to what is generated. For example, collect junk mail at mail rooms and set up boxes for unwanted reusable clothing in laundry rooms.
Determine what types of materials residents will be generating based on where students get materials. In residence halls, primarily bottles and cans, newspapers, and both high and low-grade paper are generated. Due to space limitations and a trend towards regular contamination, a collection for white, newspaper, mixed paper, and cardboard (paperboard or corrugated cardboard) is recommended. Having an additional colored paper category invites contamination and becomes a low grade mix anyway. It is less hassle to create a mix category that sorters will know to check for contamination while processing paper that can be upgraded by the recycling program.
Both on and off campus apartments/houses will generate a greater diversity of materials than residence halls because residents are able to prepare meals within their own housing units. Balance material types with space restrictions and capacity needs. In order to provide a broad collection approach, it may be necessary to combine materials to collect them.
Recycling site accessibility is important to both users and those who will service the sites. Locate recycling collection in areas that are accessible to the users any time of the day. Recycling sites can be overloaded at times and the staff members who are responsible for the upkeep of these sites need to have access to these areas promptly.
As mentioned before, recycling collection should always be located in trash areas. Create waste/recycling stations that are complete. Locating certain materials in separate locations (such as cardboard collection) will reduce the possibility that these materials will be collected for recycling. Convenience, consistency, good signage, and clean, well-maintained areas will maximize recycling and reduce contamination.
While recycling sites located on residence hall floors may provide the utmost convenience for residents, those sites may be inconvenient for service and may not be approved by the local fire marshal, nor located in proximity to garbage. Review the areas where garbage is currently centralized and work to incorporate recycling systems into existing sites. Set up efficient systems to minimize Campus Recycling Program and University Housing Department labor needs.
Incorporate collection systems into areas that generate specific types of waste. For example: site a mail collection station at all area desks where students receive mail. Remember to ask yourself: if there is garbage collection, then are there any recoverable materials generated in the area that would require a recycling site?
Some schools have trash rooms; others have trash collection areas outside. Typically, students are required to dump the materials they generate at central locations. The more centralized the collections are, the less the labor costs will be for handling these materials.
In family housing complexes and student housing apartments and houses, establish community waste/recycling areas. Typically these are trash enclosures and are often uncovered. There are many unique types of covered containers and units that are available and suitable for these types of areas.
Create a system where an employee (ideally a University Housing Department employee) monitors recycling areas. Designate a recycling program employee to go through these sites daily to clean-out contaminants, collect high grade materials, and keep the area clean. Always make sure that signs are properly displayed and aesthetically pleasing. Keep bins clean by creating a maintenance switch out schedule for containers.
Select areas that allow for easy clean-up. Keeping recycling areas clean and organized serves a greater purpose beyond ease of use. Well-kept sites continue the element of convenience for users and help make the recycling experience a positive one. Identify convenient sites where recycling containers can be taken to be cleaned and where custodial equipment can be used for quick area clean-up.
Servicing Recycling Sites
When planning a recycling collection system, work with the Housing Department to determine how much collection can feasibly be incorporated into existing operations. Ideally, the more custodians and housing personnel assisting in this effort, the less expensive the recycling service will be. Determine whether staff members are available to move recyclables and trash from both on and off-campus locations. Explore various options for incorporating existing labor into this process as any little bit can help. Present findings to the Housing Department.
With sites monitored, clearly labeled, and easily accessible, recycling crews can quickly swap out barrels instead of emptying barrels into bags or other barrels. Bring materials back to warehouse/processing center to be sifted through as they are processed into marketing containers.
Of note: Campus residential areas are notorious for creating contamination. Monitoring, good signage, introduction of the practice through new student orientations, and continuous promotion will result in more efficient and effective recycling service.
When selecting recycling containers consider the following:
Outdoor areas are often utilized for residence hall recycling collection. If areas are covered, 55 gallon drums are excellent for minimizing cost and maintaining compatibility with the system of swapping out containers for servicing. These also have generous capacity which reduces the need for increased servicing.
In other outside uncovered areas, there are plastic barrel lids available at a minimum cost, but these are not ideal. There are many companies that make metal recycling units that enclose plastic 55 gallon containers and are aesthetically pleasing, fire safe, and easy to service and maintain. Inexpensive galvanized garbage cans with lids are available at home supply stores.
Creating appropriate signage is an important factor in ensuring participation in a recycling effort. Whenever possible, replicate sorting categories and campus signage. A special consideration for residential areas is making signs that are more universally accessible as international students typically live in all varieties of university housing facilities. Creating photographic signs and multilingual promotional information and posters is very helpful in reaching the potentially unique population living in these areas.
In family housing areas, children are often the ones charged with recycling and garbage disposal. Make signs easily understandable and use visuals to help identify each type of collection.
At outside areas, corrugated plastic signs made by a sign company are useful, sturdy, and can be a good medium for both operational and educational information.
Providing tools to make recycling a convenience for residents is also important to a successful recycling effort. A simple tool (that also acts as a promotional item) is a room or apartment recycling bin. This concept is modeled on curbside recycling bin programs that are successful across the country. Involve residents in choosing recycling bins that would work best for their units.
Develop a system to integrate in room/house/apartment recycling bins into the room inventory. They are considered part of the room or apartment and if they are missing or damaged at the end of the year, the student is charged. Of course, if there is a mechanism to give these to students outright, this is also an option.
Ideally, these bins will be a one-time investment and will be maintained through replacement cost systems from inventory control.
The recycling program can also sell recycling bins to help generate revenue to purchase such containers for all housing areas.
Move-Ins, Move-Outs and Large Material Generation Opportunities
Students in housing areas generate a copious amount of materials during Fall Move-Ins, Spring Move-Outs and, to a lesser, but still larger than normal extent, before breaks and after term finals. It is important to pay attention to these times, especially move-outs.
Cardboard is generated in large quantities during move-in periods. Plan for extra collection areas and servicing, and unexpected piles of cardboard appearing spontaneously. Additional materials such as newspaper, packing peanuts, plastic bags and block styrofoam are also generated during student move-ins. Create a collection plan for the materials that can be recycled. Temporary containers for trash collection set up alongside the cardboard recycling containers helps reduce contamination of the cardboard. Keep in mind during move-ins that these are new students who are not yet focused on how things work in a university setting. Extra promotions and regular monitoring of collection sites during move-ins are recommended.
Move-outs are an exceptionally busy phase when many students are moving off campus within the same short time frame and are under a time constraint to be moved out by the end of finals week. Imagine having a final on Friday morning and having to be moved out by 5:00 p.m. the same day. Residents are busy and focused on studying for finals and often leave packing until the last minute. With little time to pack and clean their rooms, students can be tempted to throw away anything that they do not want to move with them. This is a crazy time for both students and staff. Plan AHEAD!
Move-Outs Beyond the Residence Halls
End of the year move-outs extend beyond the on-campus living areas as students also reside within the local community. Work with community groups such as churches, fraternities and sororities, and the
Reuse Exchange Areas
Set-up a materials exchange area to be accessed throughout the year. If such an exchange can only be initiated during move-outs, it is a great start, but the more material recovered throughout the year, the better.
Set up collection bins, promote and monitor sites, and work towards improvements over time by incorporating feedback from residents in the area. Containers should be located in high traffic areas or (ideally) within waste/recycling collection areas.
Laundry rooms are a popular dry space to set-up a reusable material/item collection or exchange. This is especially successful in family housing areas as children grow in and out of clothing and toys faster then these items wear out.
Funding and Contracting Services
Recycling, like many other campus activities, is a collaborative effort. The Housing Department is considered an auxiliary service by many colleges and thus contracts recycling services through the Campus Recycling Program. As mentioned above, it is important for the Campus Recycling Program to work with the University Housing Department to design a plan that will reduce waste, streamline operations and keep costs affordable.
Colleges that incorporate recycling into waste management can add recycling more easily into the waste management system contract and fees. Many schools have recycling departments that are separate from waste management, which makes it more difficult to coordinate waste management efforts. Under this scenario, working together with campus waste management departments is critical to creating recycling services that reduce costs and services from waste management. If recycling exists as a separate entity, it can be difficult to convince administrators that recycling is not an extra cost, but rather a program to reduce garbage costs and services.
When establishing contracted services with the University Housing Department, work with administrators to develop a position or designate an employee to oversee recycling operations, waste reduction, and educational activities in campus residential areas. Make sure to meet with the designated administrator regularly and stay apprised of what is going on in the Housing Department. Stay informed about new trash enclosures being built to ensure that they include sufficient space for recycling collection and continue to attend meetings to discuss move-outs. Establish additional contacts and advocates within the Housing Department (such as custodial staff members), as well as within off-campus organizations, student living groups, and any other allies on campus and in the surrounding community.
Be sure to plan ahead for future opportunities that may arise to streamline operations. Track all the materials that are collected as this is valuable information for re-negotiating contracts or justifying recycling services. Stay in tune with the population changes in housing areas. If new facilities are being added or there is a record amount of students, the recycling charge will increase. Try not to lock in a set price, but if this is the only option, add a little extra into the budget to account for unforeseen expenses. Consider that these contracted services include labor and administrative costs including tracking and educational activities.
Education is an important factor in creating an effective, well-utilized collection system in campus housing areas. One of the primary functions of a housing system is to provide residential populations with educational, social, and cultural programs. Recycling and waste reduction fit nicely into this goal. Such programs are put together by housing staff, residence hall leaders, and volunteers. These groups of students can help to incorporate recycling education and promotion into the daily life of residents. Here are some ideas:
Dump & Run