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The Oregon State University Sustainability Blog

Behind-the-Scenes of OSU Campus Recycling: What you don’t see…

June 7th, 2018

Ever wonder what it actually takes to have recycling options? Most of the time, you may only see our Campus Recycling trucks on their way to service buildings, or the events we put on, like Beyond Earth Day, to help educate and spread awareness of recycling options on campus. But there’s so much more that happens behind the scenes to make our dream of campus sustainability a reality!

For instance, check out the bins below…

Look familiar? These are our most common recycling units that collect our most common recycling streams: containers (e.g., bottles and cans) and paper. During 2017, we spent an entire year investigating signage efficiency for these two streams . A whole year dedicated to signage! What could we have possibly been doing?! For all you STEM students, what we did is what you all use every day: the scientific method.

In the fall, we conducted research on recycling signage used at other universities and decided to experiment with a couple styles here at OSU. What does this mean? This means lots of audits. Winter term had us auditing recycle bins for three weeks to customize our signage to what was being placed in different bins types. Then spring term, we had three weeks of audits to test each type of signage (of which there were three). You may be asking what it means to “audit” recycling. Basically, we take the recycling bin contents and sort/count the different types we find. So, yes, one of our employees spent a total of 12 weeks last year dumpster diving and counting trash (if you were living in McNary, you may have seen her first-hand, crawling inside your orange 90-gallon commingled recycling carts on the 6th floor!). To see what your waste looks like sorted, check out the photo below from the audit:

Why on earth would we do this? It may seem baffling why we would put in so much effort to look at recycling signs. However, even if you don’t know much about Campus Recycling, I’m willing to bet you see one of our recycling signs at least once a day while you’re on campus. This is our main form of communicating with you! And this is just a taste of what it means to bring sustainable practices to your everyday life! From this experiment, we saw a decrease in percent contamination in the residence halls between two signage styles – which means our signage is actually making a difference for you!

Here at OSU, we’re pretty lucky to have such a passionate and dedicated team to help coordinate and implement some of the important waste programs you pass by every day on your way to class. We’re here to make sustainability as easy and convenient for you as possible. Check out more about how we do things at our Campus Recycling website and let us know what we can do to help make this more enjoyable for you!


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