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Recycling project enjoys early success

September 23, 2015

A pilot project launched this summer in University Hall is already making its mark on the building, on the campus and on IUPUI’s recycling rate.

The University Hall deskside recycling project is a partnership between the Office of Sustainability and Campus Facility Services and has relied on the efforts of building employees to adopt good recycling practices that have dramatically improved the recycle rate significantly higher than the campus average.

“Our most recent data from University Hall, which covers most of August through Sept. 5, we have reached our highest recycle rate yet at 67 percent,” said Sustainability Director Jessica Davis. “That is only three percent short of our goal to recycle 70 percent of the waste we know could be recycled on our campus.”

Compare the numbers -- 59 percent average recycle rate -- in the infographic to the more usual IUPUI recycling rate of about 10 percent and it’s easy to see why Davis and CFS leaders are already looking at future plans.

“The University Hall folks have become engaged in the issue of waste management and recycling, an important step in our campuswide education efforts,” Davis said. Education was an important part of the recycling collaboration, Davis noted, and that may be even more important that improvements in the raw numbers.

“I believe the people who work in University Hall are really proud of this, and want to sustain it going forward,” Davis said. “To me, sustainability isn’t a success if it stays on campus. I want people to take it home with them, to practice it in their daily lives. That is why it is so exciting to see how invested the people in the building have become.”

Planners for CFS and the Office of Sustainability knew that they needed to make the project as simple and straightforward as possible. “That is why we made recycling containers bigger and put them beside desks,” she said. “That’s why the CFS staff people collect the recycling containers, but building employees have to take their trash to collection points. We needed to make recycling as easy -- or even easier -- than the status quo. It’s about developing good habits.”

Last week, CFS and the Office of Sustainability hosted a dumpster diver for University Hall tenants to learn more about the building’s specific recycling capacity and discover what recyclables were being thrown into the trash.

“Only 15 percent of University Hall trash was recyclable, the most common items being paper coffee cups and their plastic lids,” Davis said. “Compare that to the average of 57 percent of trash across campus that could be recycled, and the performance of University Hall is staggering.”

Recycling infographic

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