NIU recycling made easier with changes to bins

By Chelsey Boutan

Sarah Wawerski spent her summer and will spend this semester trying to get the NIU campus community to do one thing–recycle more.

But getting people to recycle more, if at all, can be difficult. And with limited funding for campus recycling efforts, increasing campus recycling will be a challenging process, said Wawerski, senior environmental studies major and student worker at Building Services.

Wawerski’s boss, Building Services supervisor Tammie Pulak, came up with a cost-effective solution to encourage recycling on campus. Instead of purchasing all new trash and recycling bins, Pulak decided to give the bins a cohesive look by having them refurbished and relabeled.

Over the summer, Wawerski and seasonal employees for Building Services began the labor-intensive process of cleaning, relabeling and redistributing the bins across campus.

The new labels, which say landfill on black bins and recycle on blue bins, have been placed on all bins inside buildings located east of Normal Road. Outdoor trash bins were repainted black and some new recycling bins have also been added outside, Pulak said.

New trash and recycling bins are located throughout the new residence hall complex and a few are placed in Zulauf Hall, Neptune Central, Douglas Hall, Adams Hall and the Stevenson Towers.

The new recycling bins vary in cost from $100 for a single glutton container to $400 for a single silhouette container. Pulak and Wawerski are hopeful using the words recycle and landfill on the new bins will increase awareness about recycling and make people think more about where their items are going.

“We’re hoping that the wording of recycle and landfill will help people better make the connection of where the end life of their materials will be,” Wawerski said.

Pulak said the labeling, along with the new two-bin system, will decrease the chances of people throwing trash into recycling containers and thus contaminating the items that could have been recycled. The old labels, which said trash only, cans and bottles only, and paper only, made it a harder process for people to decide which bin their items belonged in, Pulak said.

Pulak said recyclable materials don’t have to be physically sorted like they were years ago. NIU now uses a single-stream recycling system. Recyclable materials are combined together and later separated at the sorting facility.

With the seasonal help gone, Wawerski is left with the task of refurbishing and relabeling the remaining recycling bins. She hopes to have the whole process completed by the end of fall semester, but said it all depends on how many student volunteers there are. She plans to look at reports from waste management over the semester to see if the new recycling bins have impacted campus recycling.

Pulak said with all of the work Wawerski does, she finds it frustrating when people still choose not to recycle. But Pulak tries to encourage Wawerski and remind her that all of her efforts to increase recycling at NIU are making a difference.

“She’s making a difference one person at a time. We just have to hold onto that thought,” Pulak said. “If we change one classroom full of students a year, that’s one person at a time that’s going to be more mindful of what’s best for the environment.”