Recycling may be one of the simpler ways to participate in sustainability efforts, but it has to be easy to do. With that in mind, the University of Richmond’s student sustainability organization, GreenUR, is teaming up with administrative offices to make recycling a more accessible and achievable aspect of campus life.

“The goal here is to make recycling easy for everyone,” says GreenUR member Celia Landesberg, ’14. The group recently conducted bin audits of campus receptacles, recording where bins were missing or mislabeled. Their results supported the testimony of many members of the campus community — that the current bin system is confusing and inconsistent.

“There is a universal need across campus for it to be clear,” says Megan Litke, sustainability coordinator, who has worked closely with GreenUR on this and other initiatives, including composting.

Working with the University’s facilities and communications offices, Litke helped create a new campus-wide labeling system that identifies recycling bins for plastic and paper, as well as trash bins.

Based on the findings of GreenUR’s audit — which took into account feedback from administrators and staff — University Facilities also will install new bins where they are needed and replace existing bins with more size- and traffic-appropriate receptacles.

“Our goal is to be consistent across the board so that wherever you are on campus you’ll see the same thing,” says Al Lane, manager of custodial and environmental services.

The labels began to appear during the spring semester, coinciding with this year’s two-month, nationwide RecycleMania competition, which monitors the amount of waste diverted to recycling bins by individuals on campus. The timing will allow GreenUR and Litke to actually track the results of the new system so they will have concrete, quantitative results of their efforts. 

“The new labeling system should clear up any existing doubts about what’s recyclable and what’s not, and should prevent facilities from having to throw away contaminated recyclables,” says Landesberg.

The sustainability office also is working on other projects to make recycling programs more effective on campus. UR currently composts organic waste at the Heilman Dining Center and at the Rot Spot, a student-run composting facility located at the University Forest Apartments. Later this year, Litke’s office will introduce an initiative for administrative staff focused on making office spaces more environmentally friendly.

Litke plans to further tie together the programs once the bin labeling and replacement process is complete. She hopes to add a fourth bin to each set that says “compost,” so that students and employees can be involved in composting as they walk across campus.

Lane explains that the recycling and composting program is flexible — it responds to what students and administrators are interested in prioritizing. “It’s not a concrete program at all,” he says. “It’s always changing.”