As students returned to Campus from winter break, the unbearably cold weather and towering snow banks did not come as much of a surprise. The 2,255 newly acquired recycling bins, on the other hand, did not go unnoticed. These recycling bins, which can be found in first-year and sophomore residence halls and some academic buildings, mark one of Colgate’s major efforts to implement a campus-wide recycling initiative.
After researching the recycling habits at Colgate as part of their senior-level seminar class, Environmental Studies 480, students Sara Zurmuhlen, Shae Frydenlund and Justin Alimaras, all class of 2010, completed the “Colgate Recycling Project” with the help of Sustainability Coordinator John Pumilio and Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies Robert Turner. The research project was started after the students found out that the self-reported recycling rate for both genders was roughly 60 percent at Colgate. They organized six focus groups made up of Colgate students to investigate the cause of the low recycling turnout. Their research project showed that students would be more willing to recycle if there were more recycling bins located in convenient areas around campus.
“This [research] supported the sentiment I heard from many
students during orientation week the past two years [who] wanted to know why we don’t have recycling bins in their rooms,” Pumilio said.
Senior Meghan Kiernan and Pumilio were not going to let the extensive research on recycling go to waste. The two wrote a proposal and presented it to Associate Vice President of Facilities Paul Fick. Fick played a major role in securing the funding for implementation of the recycling bins.
“The administration was very supportive of this effort. In fact, they have been quite supportive of sustainability overall,” Pumilio said.
For the proposal, Kiernan walked through the floors of every academic building and first-year and sophomore residential building on campus. The floor plans that she created included one showing where the recycling bins were located at the time and a proposed floor plan with the new recycling bins.
“We [Pumilio and Kiernan] focused on the freshman and sophomore classes in hopes that they would adopt recycling habits that would continue throughout the remainder of their time at Colgate and beyond,” Kiernan said.
Kiernan and Pumilio’s main goal was ultimately to have a 1:1 ratio of trash and recycling bins.
Besides improving Colgate’s sustainability, Pumilio and Kiernan stressed that the recycling bins would be a long-term investment. The new recycling bins would reduce landfill waste by 20 percent, which would result in $10,247 in annual savings and a return on investment in roughly two to three years.
Pumilio estimated that “over 10 years, we [Colgate] will save $77,000 from this project.”
The proposal for recycling infrastructure also came after Colgate’s first performance in RecycleMania last spring. Out of 199 schools entered in the competition to recycle the most, Colgate finished in 165th place. It is hoped that more conveniently placed recycling bins will motivate students to improve their recycling behaviors, which will result in a better showing in RecycleMania.
The purchase of recycling bins is one of many initiatives to improve Colgate’s sustainability efforts. The Sustainability Office has just hired a student Recycling Coordinator, sophomore Jenna Taylor. Taylor will help educate students on how to recycle and make sure the new program is implemented properly and effectively.
“In all, we will have much better coverage that will make recycling more salient and convenient for students and all community members,” Pumilio said.