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Male student places item in waste station

Illinois State student I K Ude uses one of the new standardized waste stations that have been placed inside and outside Schroeder Hall and are planned for locations across campus.

New waste stations aid on-campus recycling efforts

“Reduce, reuse, recycle” is a line most of us have heard all our lives. But do we actually know how to properly recycle? Illinois State University’s Office of Sustainability Director Elisabeth Reed says recycling is more complex than one may think.

“What can be recycled can change based on the market, which can lead to confusion over whether an item is recyclable or not,” said Reed. “That’s why these messaging waste stations are so important, and why we are always trying to educate the campus with this information.”

Reusable bag with graphic saying what can be recycled and what goes into the landfill. Recyclable: Plastic containers (bottles, tubs, jugs); Paper (flatten cardboard and mixed paper); Metal (steel and aluminum containers); Glass (unbroken bottles and jars); no food waste; no liquids; no plastic bags. Landfill: Beverage containers/utensils (beverage pods, drink/plastic solo cups, and straws); Food waste/containers (food, liquids, food containers, and Styrofoam); Plastic bags (snack bags, candy wraps, and packing materials); Paper napkins/towels/plates.

The Office of Sustainability’s reusable bags show what items can be recycled and what items should go to the landfill.

Units under Facilities Services, which the Office of Sustainability is a part, have been working on a project to install standardized waste stations in select on-campus buildings. These stations feature graphics showing which waste the University’s recycler, Midwest Fiber, can accept and which is meant for the landfill. In January, Lee Fox, assistant superintendent of Building Services, and Gig Supanichrattana, M.S. ‘15, project development and data analyst of Facilities Management, replaced 40 recycling bins and 67 trash cans in Schroeder Hall with 22 new standardized waste stations.

“The purpose behind the waste stations was that we wanted to have a uniform cluster with trash and recycling together,” said Fox. “By pulling the trash and recycling out of the classroom and into the hallways, it could cut down on some of the trash in the classrooms and get the students used to putting trash in the hallway.”

Supanichrattana began to notice the high number of trash cans when she was a student at Illinois State.

“When I walked to class I would wonder why we had so many trash cans,” said Supanichrattana. “There were trash cans every two steps I took down the hallway, so I talked to Lee and (Facilities Management recycling coordinator) Andrew (Bennett) and we decided to look into it.”

An Illinois State student uses a new waste station located outside Schroeder Hall.

An Illinois State student uses a new waste station located outside Schroeder Hall.

Before deciding to create the waste stations, Fox and Supanichrattana researched best practices and conducted a waste audit.

Administrators are hoping to create a consistent waste collection system with the new stations and to place them in every building on campus. Fox and Supanichrattana are currently working to place waste stations in McCormick Hall and the Student Fitness Center.

The Office of Sustainability is also hoping the stations dispel common misconceptions on campus about recycling. For example, Starbucks’ straws and hot-drink paper cups and lids are not recyclable and should be thrown in the garbage, Bennett said.

Reed hopes that students will be paying attention to the messaging on the waste stations and encourages them to actively seek out the waste stations in order to dispose of trash properly and to become educated on the topic.

Ways to be environmentally conscious on campus

  1. Learn where and what to recycle. 
  2. Use a transportation alternative such as Reggie Ride or the Connect Transit shuttle.
  3. Join the Student Sustainability Committee.
  4. Take notes during class electronically and don’t print more paper than necessary.

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