The introduced a consolidated recycling program at its University Center earlier this month. And if preliminary results are any indication, the Maize and Blue in Dearborn is sure to get a whole lot greener come January.
The university unveiled a single-stream recycling system at the building to test if it could cut costs and reduce its waste stream on a campus-wide level, said Kate Pepin, director of facilities planning.
Single-stream recycling allows individuals to recycle paper, glass and metal in one bin. Materials are separated later by recycling facilities. The process provided a perfect pairing of expanded recycling and low costs, Pepin said.
“Up until now, across campus we’ve only recycled paper and some cardboard,” she said, adding that the single-stream simplicity encourages people to recycle more.
David Knezek, UM-Dearborn student government president, said the centralization of a university-led recycling program was long overdue. University administration worked with student leaders to smooth the transition to the new system, he said. And so far, it has paid huge dividends.
“Now that we have this whole recycling program, most people are surprised by just how much trash and nonrecyclable things they have every day,” he said.
Discussions to introduce the program began last fall, Pepin said. And the University Center provided a prime trial location due to its diversity of use.
“It has outside vendors, we have a lot of visitors, we have events, meeting rooms, dining facilities and a lot of students gather in the space,” she said. “It certainly is going to test our limits. It’s going to prove that we can or can’t do this and to what degree.”
UM-Dearborn produced more than 720 tons of waste in the past fiscal year, only 50 tons of which—about 7 percent—were recycled, Pepin said. But estimates from consulting firm Resource Recycling Systems projected that as much as 40 percent of the university’s waste stream could be recycled if the single-stream program is expanded across campus.
What’s more is that such an expanded program would have less than a three-year return on investment, Pepin said. Following that, the university would be saving $34,000 per year with the simplified system.
Only two weeks into the trial, results are encouraging. More than 50 percent of the University Center’s waste stream is currently being recycled, according to statistics from Pepin.
The pilot program will continue through the fall semester, she said, adding that the administration will have “a good idea after the first month when students come back” as to whether the program is worthy of further investment.
Expansion of the program would come at the start of the spring semester in January. And if the preliminary results continue throughout the summer and fall, there’s little holding the program back, Knezek said.
“We’re going to come together to discuss any positives, negatives or changes we need in the program,” he said. “And then pending any other needed changes, it’s going to be pushed out campuswide.”