Recycling expansion continues on campus

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In the fall semester, the University rolled out its recycling expansion pilot. The pilot program seeks to make recycling more accessible to campus community members and increase waste diversion rates, while adapting to the new requirements of the University’s recycling service provider, Recycling Works. Building upon lessons from the student-facing areas that were prioritized in the fall, the pilot program continues this semester with a focus on updates in office spaces. More information about buildings that are part of the pilot program so far can be found here.

How recycling works on campus

Recycling Works cannot accept soft plastics, such as plastic bags, so recyclables collected on campus cannot be bagged. The single-stream toter system and cardboard collection carts continue to be the primary way Building Services collects everyday recyclable materials on campus. It works just like your municipal recycling pickup at home. As you collect materials in a personal deskside bin, those items are transferred to a toter for centralized pickup each week.

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Dillon Hall Sustainability Commissioner Parker Macy (above) takes his recyclable materials to a centrally located recycling toter (left) and broken-down cardboard to a gray cardboard cart (right)

Common area bins

In step with the recycling program changes, Building Services has been working to remove tall blue bins in common areas. These bins will gradually be removed from buildings as we transition to using deskside recycling bins, toters and cardboard carts only. Many buildings may still have these outdated bins lingering in hallways and office suites, but they are not being serviced for recycling. Anything currently put in these bins is serviced as trash.

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Deskside bins (left) will stay, and tall common area bins (right) will be removed.


Office suite updates

Over the past year, the University has instructed staff and faculty in office suites to collect recycling in a deskside bin to take to a toter, while custodial staff continue to manage trash bins. Building Services and Sustainability recognize that having different service levels for small deskside trash and recycling bins can be confusing. As part of the recycling expansion pilot, Building Services will test a new waste collection concept, in step with best practices used at other institutions. Because it is a pilot, this new service model will initially take place in a small number of buildings only. When your building is ready to receive this new service, your building manager will notify you of the changes.

“Our departments are collaborating on an expansion pilot program that targets a small number of buildings on campus, with the goal to expand recycling opportunities in those buildings while using waste collection best practices. As part of the process, we are working directly with stakeholders in each building to apply standardized solutions for improving recycling in the building. To do the job right takes a lot of time and collaboration, which is why we’ve included only a small number of buildings so far,” Senior Director of Building Services Chris Hatfield says.

Addressing the challenges

Building Services and Sustainability understand there are challenges with Notre Dame’s recycling program. Throughout this ongoing process of change, different buildings are receiving different levels of service. With a campus of more than 170 buildings with complex needs, there are obstacles to work through before the recycling program is fully transitioned.

“Because each building and its occupants’ needs are unique, we have been collaborating with individual building managers to provide the best outcomes possible and also to communicate with building occupants as a part of the expansion. We are also addressing individual inquiries as they arise in other campus buildings that have not yet been folded into the expansion,” says Senior Director of Sustainability Geory Kurtzhals.

Building Services team members have been adapting their services along the way as well. Once it is time for them to progress to a new type of custodial service, they are trained to do so by their respective team leaders. After the expansion is rolled out to every building, Building Services staff will be expected to provide the same level of service across campus, and deskside recycling bins in offices will be serviced by staff on a regular basis. However, you are encouraged to empty your bin in a central toter if it is full before the scheduled pickup. If you have mobility concerns, please work with your custodial staff for accommodations.

The aesthetics of toters and the future of built-in waste collection infrastructure

It’s no secret that old built-in waste and recycling trash units are still on campus. All of these built-ins were designed for bagged waste collection, which Recycling Works can no longer accept. This necessitates the use of recycling toters, where materials are collected loosely and unbagged. Both Sustainability and Building Services are sensitive to the fact that the toters are not appropriate in all spaces, and cannot fit in the existing built-in structures. As a result, there are now different toter sizes to choose from, with the smallest option being 35 gallons. The Facilities Design and Operations team is also assisting in this process to test a more aesthetic recycling option to offer departments in the future, which includes larger cabinets that can accommodate recycling toters. This is still in the design stage, and early samples are currently being tested at DeBartolo Hall.

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From left to right: 35 gallons, 3 feet tall; 64 gallons, 3.6 feet tall; 96 gallons, 3.8 feet tall

For questions about the recycling program, see our recycling resources pages of our website, with the opportunity to provide feedback in a survey. We also have a comprehensive A-Z Recycling Directory and FAQ, among other resources, to help share the message about the program’s current state.