New Zero-Sort recycling program improves college recycling rate

zerosortsignWaste and recycling is a topic that concerns many people on the Skidmore College campus. Thanks to a partnership between Facilities Services, the Sustainable Skidmore Office, and Skidmore’s waste hauler Casella Waste Systems, Skidmore transitioned to zero-sort recycling earlier this fall. Zero-Sort recycling is Skidmore’s most recent waste reduction effort and allows users to place all recyclable material (paper, cardboard, metals, glass, and plastics) in one bin.

The goal of the new program is to increase the College’s recycling rate and divert recyclable materials from the landfill. Skidmore met with Casella for several months to design and implement a program that would be straightforward and encourage broad participation from the Skidmore community. The more streamlined Zero-Sort program makes recycling easier for individuals, leading to increased participation and higher recycling rates. Members of Facilities Services and Sustainable Skidmore also visited one of Casella’s recycling facilities to see first-hand how materials are sorted and met with Casella’s marketing team to design clear, comprehensive signage for the program.

waste tourIn order to track progress, Skidmore and Casella conducted a waste audit to analyze current campus recycling rates. Skidmore’s recycling rate was 16% before the new Zero-Sort program launched; yet more than 60% of the total waste stream consisted of recyclable content. Skidmore hopes to reach a recycling rate of 40% by the end of next year. Within 2 months of the program’s launch the College has already reached a 22% recycling rate, a six percent increase.

The transition to Zero-Sort recycling is only one of several waste reduction campaigns. Since 2010, the composting program in the Northwoods Village has diverted over 14,000 pounds of food scraps from going to the landfill. The program is expanding its scope this year and is working with Dining Hall staff to develop seminars on food storage, food preparation, and cooking techniques to help educate students and minimize food waste within campus apartments. Other initiatives that continue to make a positive impact on campus are the Give+Go and furniture donation programs. Last year, the Give+Go captured several large truckloads of reusable items to donate to local and regional organizations. Skidmore also donated over 2,500 pieces of furniture to national and international relief programs. The new Zero-Sort programs, along with these other ongoing waste reduction initiatives demonstrate Skidmore’s commitment to reducing its impact on our regional and global communities.

2 Replies to “New Zero-Sort recycling program improves college recycling rate”

  1. there are still some issues with respect to what goes into the single stream recycling, pizza boxes are OK what about napkins, paper or plastic bags, plastic ware CDs, plastic or styrafoam food containers, PLastic cups? what about paper plates and paper cups? Is there a way to recycle batteries?
    What about packing materials, foam peanuts, bubble wrap? Compostable vegetative matter?

    • Hi Steve, great question! There have been a lot of changes made in the recycling market and it is always changing so it’s hard to keep up sometimes. I’ll try my best to answer all of them and if I don’t know the answer I will reach out to Casella.
      Pizza boxes: recyclable, even the greasy ones
      Plastic bags: Skidmore can not recycle them, but I know some grocery stores do.
      Paper bags and cups are recyclable and I have been told that as a general rule, if you rip it and can see fibers then it is recyclable.
      Batteries and CDs are collected in a bin near the Post Office and are recycled separately.
      Most plastics #1-7 are recyclable (this includes bottles, cups, take out containers, coffee cup lids, rigid plastics like buckets, bottle caps, etc) as long as there is not liquid or food in it.

      Things that can NOT be recycled: Napkins and tissues (due to contaminants and low quality fibers), styrofoam, and plastic films like bubble wrap, packing film, etc. However, I do know that if it is a lot of material, the Post Office is usually happy to have it. I don’t think compostable ware is recyclable either because it is usually a lower quality fiber, but I will check on that.

      Let me know if you have any other questions!

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