November 9, 2011

New Recycling System Streamlines Disposal, Will Reduce Landfill

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Cornell’s campus switched from multi-stream to single-stream recycling this fall, a “fully advantageous” change that will reduce landfill waste and increase the cost-efficiency of waste handling, according to Spring Buck, operations manager for the Respect, Rethink, Reduce, Resuse and Recycle initiative. Called R5, Buck’s adminstrative division collaborated with the University’s Department of Building Care to implement the new system.

“Single-stream recycling is a great step toward improving recycling on campus and reducing our landfill waste, and it has been a wonderful team experience with the Building Care department,” Buck said.

Previously, Cornell allocated separate bins for different recyclable materials. With single-stream recycling, however, all recyclables — glass, paper, cartons, plastics, cardboard, aluminum, bottles and cans — are collected in a single bin, according to the R5 website.

Single-stream recyclables are sorted once they are transferred to a recycling facility in Ontario County, according to the Tompkins County Solid Waste Management Division website.

Buck called single-stream recycling “a convenient and simple system” and said that its primary goal is to increase the total amount of recycled materials and reduce landfill waste.

“Without having to sort the materials themselves, people are more likely to recycle, whereas when people weren’t sure how to sort the materials, they would just throw them away,” she said.

Buck said she expects to see “more participation from our campus community in using recycle bins.” Specifically, R5, Buck’s organization, is hoping for a five percent increase in recycling across campus, she said.

Buck said that R5 also anticipates reduced waste-collection costs.

Transferring waste to a landfill is more expensive than recycling, Buck said. While both landfills and recycling facilities charge for transportation, landfills also have a surcharge for weight, according to Buck.

“Hopefully we can decrease costs by decreasing how much waste we send to a landfill,” Buck said.

The transition began in March, when Tompkins County Solid Waste Management Division announced it would collect single-stream recycles curbside.

The campus-wide change involved re-labeling existing recycling receptacles.“Putting out new bins would only create more waste,” Buck said.

According to Buck, 25,000 receptacles — an estimated 98 percent of all recycle bins on campus — have been re-labeled for single-stream recycling.

Although the initiative for single-stream recycling began at the county level, Buck said that a number of student groups — including Sustainability Hub, Cornell Organization for Resource Efficiency, Greeks Go Green and the 2014 Class Council — supported the initiative.

“We fully support what [R5 and Building Care] are doing,” said Marcus Franklin ’14, an outreach officer for the Sustainability Hub.

Through tabling and informational pamphlets, the Sustainability Hub has made single-stream recycling part of its educational mission, according to Franklin.

Buck said that in the next few months, Cornell will also begin recycling plastic bags, plastic packaging material and agricultural plastic.

Original Author: Erin Ellis