Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass switches to single stream recycling system

By Tom Relihan

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Bryn Rothschild-Shea/Collegian

Recycling bins across the campus will be getting a makeover this month as the Office of Waste Management switches to a new “single stream” recycling system.

The changes will allow all recyclable materials – such as paper, glass bottles, aluminum cans and plastic cups – to be placed in a single receptacle, which will then be picked up by the Office of Waste Management, according to John Pepi, the University of Massachusetts’ solid waste manager.

Afterwards, the combined recyclables will be transported to Waste Management Inc.’s Tremont Street location in Springfield where the paper will be separated from the bottles and cans using a combination of manual oversight, conveyor belts and magnets. The bottles and cans will then be sent to the company’s Bernie Avenue Materials Recovery Facility for further processing.

According to Pepi, the decision to switch from dual stream to single stream recycling was made for a number of reasons, including an expected increase in the recycling rate on campus.

“We believe that making it easier for people to recycle will increase participation and, therefore, the recycling rate,” said Pepi. “People are more apt to participate when it’s easy.”’

Currently, the campus recycles approximately 28 percent of its  bottles, cans, paper and cardboard. Pepi hopes that the new system helps up that number to 50 or 60 percent.

In addition to hopefully increasing on-campus recycling, the system will also result in long-term economic efficiency by allowing the Office of Waste Management to make just one pass with its trucks around the campus per week instead of two, according to Pepi.

Adjusting to the system will take some time because of increases in the volume of material and changes in the collection schedule, according to Pepi. But it will eventually cut down on labor and vehicle costs, greenhouse gas emissions and fuel consumption.

While the changes may result in a slight drop in revenue, which will now be dictated by fluctuations in the market index for “old newsprint” grade paper instead of being guaranteed at minimum of $15 per ton, Pepi said that the benefits of single stream recycling will make up for the losses.

“I think the savings on day one will already offset the sacrifice of revenue,” said Pepi.

He noted that because single stream allows for the recycling of materials that were not previously accepted under the dual stream system, less waste will be sent to the incinerators – resulting in an additional savings of about $85 per ton.

The changes will also provide for desk-side pickup in all labs and academic and administrative offices. The Office of Waste Management expects this to make a significant impact on recycling rates.

The custodial and housing staff is current re-labeling all the existing receptacles, according to Residential Life Associate Director Ted Mone, a process which, he said, involves sticking over 14,000 new decals on the containers.

They are also educating the staff and student body about the changes.

The single stream system is expected to be fully implemented by the end of the month.

Tom Relihan can be reached at [email protected]

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