Purdue sees boost in recycling rate

October 4, 2010

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Although recycling on Purdue's West Lafayette campus is easier than ever, its simplicity masks impressive numbers from fiscal 2009-10 -- numbers that contributed to a 17-percentage-point rise in the campus recycling rate:

* More than 900 tons of paper products (including cardboard, office paper, and mixed paper).

* Nearly one ton of aluminum.

* More than 90 tons of glass and plastic.

* Almost 300 tons of steel.

* 426 tons of cooking oil and grease.

Other recycled items include wood pallets, concrete and asphalt, oil, antifreeze, tires, batteries, ash from Wade Utility Plant, and electronic equipment and computers. Purdue even recycled a 737 jet this year.

Including departments and operations campus-wide, the Grounds department reports an institutional University recycling rate of 65 percent for the year, up from 48 percent a year ago. This number demonstrates significant progress toward the New Synergies strategic goal, which calls for an overall recycling rate of 85 percent by 2014.

Gary Evans, director of Grounds, points to Purdue Recycles, the dual-stream recycling program launched last year, as helping boost the University's recycling rate.

"Our aim was to make recycling easier for everyone by replacing trash receptacles with recycling bins, and removing the complication of needing to sort recyclable materials," Evans says. "So much of what went to landfill was actually recyclable, so the key was to make recycling as straightforward as tossing items into the trash." 

Dual-stream recycling (only office paper gets separated from the rest) has been rolled out to all of Purdue's academic and administrative buildings and all University Residences administrative offices, and is being piloted for residence hall rooms in Harrison Hall this semester.

Evans considers recycling "Step Three" from a sustainability perspective.

"Reducing consumption is the best sustainability practice from a waste management standpoint, followed by reuse, and then recycling," he says. During fiscal 2009-10, Purdue's waste to landfill was reduced by 225.29 tons, or 4.6 percent. Reducing consumption would help bring this number down even further.

The Grounds department recommends the following steps to help reduce consumption:

* Instead of bottled water, drink tap water in reusable containers.

* Use reusable shopping bags instead of paper or plastic bags.

* Avoid printing e-mails or other documents whenever possible.

* If you must print documents, set your printer for dual-sided printing.