New Groups Aim to Recycle
University of North Carolina Chapel Hill’s move-in recycling project was born out of necessity in 2009 as an effort to divert corrugated cardboard from UNC dumpsters as it is not a material accepted by its county’s waste facilities. Once the effort to recycle cardboard was underway, organizers say, it just made sense to collect plastic packaging and film as well.
“Students go to Target, go to Walmart or they’re bringing new stuff in, especially first-year students,” said Amy Preble, recycling coordinator for UNC’s Office of Waste Reduction and Recycling. “They’re unpacking and bringing out packaging materials for futon frames, for lamps, for whatever it is they’re buying and that’s the majority of the stuff going in the dumpsters.”
By diverting multiple materials from the waste stream during the most hectic weekend of the school year, the move-in crew is not only saving hundreds of pounds of recyclable material, but they are also offering departments and co-workers who might not otherwise interact the chance to build relationships with each other and the community.
Last year, UNC had over 30 staff members from various departments present for move-in weekend to guide, educate and help new students and their families with the waste created from moving into the dorms. Staffers are even equipped to remove misguided materials from the wrong bins if duty calls.
“A lot of universities just try to control waste,” Preble said. “They don’t go as far as to have somebody working at every dumpster site. That’s what makes it possible.”
In March, UNC’s move-in recycling program was presented with the Spotlight Award at the Carolina Recycling Association annual conference for its successful 2011 season. The team collected an estimated 350 pounds of plastic packaging and film during move-in weekend, and partnered with a local grocery store to drop off the materials for recycling.
One result that can’t be measured is the impact the Move-In Crew has on students and families. Preble said she’s gotten tremendous positive feedback from parents about the program, many of which are learning about recycling for the first time.
“For a lot of people moving into some of the dorms who are [first-year students], this may be some of their first experiences with recycling, depending on where they come from.” Preble said.