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New recycling effort sees removal of classroom garbage cans

September 28, 2016

Garbage cans are being taken out of classrooms at UW-River Falls in an effort to increase recycling on campus.

The removal of garbage cans in certain classrooms is part of a new initiative by the UWRF Office of Sustainability, Refuse and Recycling, which was started last year in order to increase recycling efforts on campus, according to Mark Klapatch, sustainability and custodial supervisor at UWRF.

Through this program, garbage cans have been taken out of the classrooms in South Hall and the second and third floors of the Kleinpell Fine Arts building. In place of those garbage cans, side-by-side containers have been placed in the hallways for students to dispose of waste and to recycle.

The program is being funded through the Surplus Property Program, a program through the UWRF Office of Sustainability to environmentally and fiscally remove items from campus buildings that are no longer used or needed.

The idea to bring this project to UWRF came from the success of similar refuse and recycle programs at other universities, including Purdue University and UW-Stout, with both universities seeing a significant increase in recycling across the campuses.

“As more campuses have been doing it and having success with it, we decided that it was something that we wanted to look at,” said Klapatch.

In a waste minimization survey by the Office of Sustainability in which 546 students, faculty members and university staff participated, 58 percent said that they would support this initiative. Also on the survey, only 57 percent of participants knew what “single sort recycling” is.

Signs will also be put on top of the new hallway bins that will lay out what should be recycled and what should be thrown away. Klapatch said that a trend at UWRF is that things that can be recycled are usually thrown into the trash, and hopefully proper signage will keep that from happening.

Klapatch said that this seemingly small change will save custodial time and improve recycling rates, as well as better educate students and faculty members through effective signage.

“With any of the areas that we’ve switched to this transition, as soon as you walk out of a classroom, you can see at least one set of bins, or two or three. So it’s not terribly inconvenient,” said Klapatch. “People may have to carry things with them outside of the classroom, but then by having side-by-side containers more of the correct items will go in the recycling.”

Klapatch said that although UWRF’s recycling program, which was started over 25 years ago, is considered successful, there is a lot of room for improvement, with the recycling rate in the containers around the university around 24 percent from January to August in 2016.

“I would estimate that if we phased this into the rest of the academic buildings on campus, we would see probably about a 10 to 14 percent increase [in recycling],” said Klapatch.

Although the initiative has only been in place since the beginning of the semester, Klapatch said that it is going very well and it is likely that the garbage cans will be taken out of all the classrooms in the academic buildings for the spring semester.