Saving Space

Sidney Coles picks up recycling while making his rounds on campus.

Sidney Coles picks up recycling while making his rounds on campus.

Every day, Sidney Coles makes his rounds at Randolph College, collecting clear plastic bags full of recyclables. As the custodian carries the loads to a recycling dumpster on back campus, one thing is clear: “It must save a lot of space at the landfill,” he said.

Recycling has become an important part of Randolph College’s culture. Students started the school’s first recycling program in the ’90s and continue to take personal responsibility for helping to reduce waste.

“I’ve seen a lot of students be good advocates for recycling,” said Sarah Lawson, a professor of environmental studies and physics. “They remind other students that it’s there and it’s available.”

The College has had an official recycling program for about 10 years. Recently, the program went through some changes that made the process much easier and more intuitive.

Before, the recycling program required users to sort their recyclables. If there was much mixing—for example, if plastic bottles were thrown in the bin marked for paper—then all the bin’s contents had to be thrown away instead of recycled. Also, the College’s recycling partner did not accept glass.

Ludovic Lemaitre ’11 started researching single-stream recycling, which accepts most recyclable items in the same container, when he began working as the College’s sustainability coordinator. “I realized that we could save money by going to single-stream recycling because we pay less per ton of recycling than we do for trash,” he said.

At Randolph’s request, the firm handling Randolph’s recycling added a single-stream option last winter, which also allowed for glass recycling. This means the same containers can accept plastic, glass, cans, paper, cardboard, aerosol cans, and juice boxes. There are separate recycling bins for plastic bags, small electronics, batteries, CFLs, DVDs, and CDs on the fifth floor of the Leggett Building.

The new method has yielded exciting results. This spring, Randolph recycled triple the amount collected the previous spring.

Lawson said the new system helps people make sustainable choices more easily. “Just the fact that we have recycling bins placed so frequently throughout campus makes it convenient,” she said. “Over the years we’ve found that making sustainability relatively easy makes it happen a lot more.”