Behind the Blue Bin: What to Recycle?

And now to address the question many of you have been waiting for: What IS acceptable to put in blue bins on-campus. The list is fairly basic, with one minor exception that needs a fair amount of explanation for it to make complete sense.

First, a quick note:

Because I know too many people that do this, and it will be important when we get to plastics, I’m going to say it again very explicitly.

Resist your deep-seated TWAMPyness and do not stress over the smallest amounts of residue in an item; today’s infrastructure is able to handle this. As far as recycling bottles with or without the caps, it is not a major issue for TFC; infrastructure can handle small amounts of contamination.

At the same time, do not go blow your nose with a tissue and put that thing anywhere near a blue bin; needless to say, that paper is a bit too contaminated (tissues and paper towels are also not a high enough quality of paper to be recycled).

Without further ado, here is the official list of the kinds of material, when not severely contaminated, that can be put in blue bins at our College***:

Non-shredded. It can be newsprint, magazines, that two month old flier that’s STILL on the first floor of Morton Hall advertising something you don’t care about, whatever. This INCLUDES items that are paper-like as well. Cardboard, cereal boxes and things of that nature, we’re looking at you.

When asked specifically about contamination (i.e. that tiny bit of soda that never seems to leave the can), Farron insisted that that would not have a huge effect on the quality of the overall product. As always, however, use good judgment (the aluminum foil covering that roasted chicken may not be able to be salvaged, for instance).

Preferably not broken ☺.

That can of tomato soup you just enjoyed belongs in the recycling bin before you dig in.

Ok, now here is where you need to pay attention. Students, as well as faculty and staff, often do not look for the number that is located on every plastic used in America (those few items that seem like plastic but don’t have a number are not recyclable). Yet often times on the bottom of most items, the key number to consider is there (If you want to learn about the numbers and listen the same part of a Jack Johnson song TWICE, here’s a basic video:

For recycling on-campus, #1 and #2 in the shape of a bottle are the only kinds of plastic that can be recycled (SEAC, however, is currently working on a way to recycle the other numbers of plastic…stay tuned on that front). Thanks to private enterprise and investment in recouping material mainly by the likes of beverage companies, items of this nature can be recycled with great ease, making it worthwhile to recycle by companies like TFC.

Now, that’s not an endorsement to go and drink as many 20 oz. Pepsis or Cokes as you want. According to Larron, it is due to the beverage industry’s work to help recover their plastic (admittedly to lower their costs) that TFC is able to collect BOTTLE-SHAPED #1 and #2 plastics.

Why not other plastics, you ask? Well, surprise, surprise; the answer comes down to an economical concern. Due to the type of resin, opaque-ness, and certain other chemicals found in the product, items such as an empty tub of margarine are not cost-effective enough to sell out to recyclers of plastic by TFC, even if it does sport a #1 or #2 on the bottom.

So, to summarize the plastics section:

Is your plastic bottle-shaped?
If yes, continue. If no, do not recycle (reuse if possible).

Is your plastic a #1 or #2?
If yes, RECYCLE. If no, do not recycle (reuse if possible).

There, that is not so hard, right? If it is, I suggest you go and listen to what Jack Johnson was talking about again and consider two things:

-He’s got elementary school kids singing along, so they know what’s up.
-If Jack Johnson is singing about it, it’s probably something that is good to do.

Even if you do not want to bro out, I would be absolutely shocked if you were not threatened by this video from the greatest Nicktoon of the 90’s, Rocko’s Modern Life:
“That was a HOOT!!”

***This list excludes special items such as electronics, shoes, and plastic bags that have other means of getting recycled on-campus. For information on that, visit:

By: Jamison Shabanowitz

November 14th, 2011

Behind the Blue Bin -Why can’t we recycle more? A peek inside TFC’s Recycling Plant

A nasty Nor’easter stormed into the Tidewater area on Friday, October 28th, as did heaps of paper, plastic, glass and metal into the TFC Recycling facility as their 3:30 shift began. At once, thousands of mechanical gears went into motion and dozens of workers assigned to assure quality control of the operation sift through the morass of recyclables hurried through the line on conveyor belts.

Recycling facilities are not for the faint at heart, yet, considering the volume of material that comes through the Chesapeake location (something to the tune of 40 tons an HOUR for 16 hours a day, according to TFC’s Nicholas Larron), it appears as if single stream recycling is handled as efficiently as possible.

Why is that good news? Well, because our wonderful College sends our recyclable material (well, most of it; we’ll discuss this later) here. I did not manage to spot any Flat Hats or Informers in the newspaper area of the facility, but rest assured, this place could handle five William and Marys worth of recycling.

Ignoring the nearly absurd amount of material that gets sorted, the process is really quite simple. TFC simply collects alike items into bundles for shipment to vendors who reprocess the material in question. It is important to remember, however, exactly WHAT can be recycled within the program that the College has signed up for.

TFC collects a wide spectrum of material, yet the College’s recycling policy is specifically tailored to fit what items the company receives in its single-stream warehouse, the building in which I witnessed the processes at work. Other warehouses take care of high-grade paper, plastics from packaging, and other plastics are associated with more durable items (there were a few bales of water coolers which Larron explained come from local visitors). Single-stream recycling, the program that the College uses, does not include these other special capabilities.

The reason comes down to what else—money. It is simply too expensive to send one of TFC’s 140 trucks to Williamsburg at least once a week to pick up specialized items that unfortunately cannot be handled already by the specific system the College uses. The College would need to pay more for increased recycling services from TFC.

After a few years around the issue of recycling on-campus, I have to point out that this understanding has not made it back to the community. In talking with my classmates and colleagues, many express dissatisfaction with the recycling program, requesting that TFC be more flexible with the items they accept. The new phenomenon of placing bins and boxes for more and more specific items for recycling through other vendors run the risk of causing confusion as to what items go in which bin. Yet the issue is not in what TFC is willing to accept; they have a great amount of capabilities. The key is in what is economically feasible for the College to send to TFC for recycling.

By Jamison Shabanowitz

November 6th, 2011

New recycling program at W&M

By now you may have read the press releases about William and Mary’s new recycling program, but I wanted to provide a little update on the topic as well. Beginning this semester, Facilities Management and Residence Life staff and cleaning staff will distribute 1000 new blue recycling containers throughout campus. Cleaning staff will be responsible for emptying the recycling containers on Tuesdays and Thursdays and the trash on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Faculty and staff will receive a small blue container in their offices for mixed recycling and new containers will be placed next to copiers and printers for paper, inside the entrances to buildings and in kitchen areas for bottles and cans, and outside for bottles and cans.

The new recycling program is made possible through financial committments from the administration, Facilities Management and ResLife. The Committee on Sustainability helped to plan the new program, using data collected by summer research students in 2009.

To read the full press release, please visit this site:–mary-launches-expanded-recycling-program-123.php

August 19th, 2010

Summer Sustainability at W&M

It’s been quite a while, hasn’t it? Some technical difficulties and the rigors of finishing up the first year of the Sustainability Fellowship can keep a man from his blog for some time. That said, I’d like to get back in the swing of things with a quick update as to what’s going on here on campus during the summer months.

Our annual summer research grants were awarded for the second time in April, and the students should be starting their work in the coming week or two. We usually only fund four students for summer research through the Green Fees, but this year’s applicant pool was so strong that we decided to fund an extra research project. I’m very excited to see what the students can create during their weeks here this summer.

The students (and their research topics) are:

  • Amanda Anderson ’11: green roof design
  • Max Cunningham ’13: a comprehensive transportation plan for W&M
  • Jane Gray Morris ’13: public space construction in the W&M sustainable gardens
  • Jamison Shabanowitz ’12: an e-recycling program
  • Alexandra Volpert ’11: reducing nutrient loading in Lake Matoaka

We’ll also be welcoming our new Sustainability Fellow in July. Before I take my leave, however, I hope to help the interns get started on their great research, finalize my sustainable procurement guidelines, and put together a final report on W&M’s great progress over the past year. I’ll be back soon with more posts on what’s new in sustainability at W&M.

Until then!

June 2nd, 2010

Eco-Ambassador Update: Residence Life

Over the last few months, I’ve met with most of our Eco-Ambassadors, and I’ve been very happy with their progress so far! I’d like to highlight just a few of the great projects they have going.

I met a week or two ago with Aaron Branch, the Eco-Ambassador for Residence Life, and his two staff partners, Chris Durden and Holly Agati. They have been looking to improve Residence Life’s recycling of old materials, RA and Orientation Aide training in sustainability, and perhaps most importantly, communication of all of the fantastic things Residence life is already doing. They pointed me in the direction of their sustainability web page, where they’ve gone into great detail to show all of the progress they’ve made recently.

A few highlights:

  • Several years ago, when we renegotiated the laundry services contract, we replaced all of the top load washers for front loading models. Front loaders use less water and the spin cycle leaves the clothes drier – which mean less energy is required to dry the clothes.
  • In cooperation with Facilities Management we have replaced toilets, showerheads and sink aerators with low flow models designed to conserve water in all of our buildings. All of our current and replacement fixtures meet the low flow standard.
  • All new porch furniture and picnic tables are made of recycled plastic materials.
  • In the spring 2008, we incorporated green cleaning solutions to replace 6 chemical solutions. The green products include True 7 (neutral cleaner), RAM (degreaser), Star (glass cleaner), and Tenacity (multipurpose cleaner). These products are part of a dilution system. We mix the product on site resulting in a considerable savings as well as being earth friendly.
  • The toilet paper and paper towels used in all public restrooms in the residence halls are green seal products. We have been using them since 2005.

Take a look yourself to learn something new about sustainability in W&M’s residence halls!

January 14th, 2010

America Recycles Day is this Sunday!

This Sunday, November 15th, is America Recycles Day! The Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC)’s Recycling Campaign is organizing a fantastic day of events, to be held from 2:00pm – 5:00pm in the Sunken Gardens (the rain plan is for Chesapeake B in the Sadler Center).

Leading up to the event, keep an eye out for the bale of compacted aluminum cans provided by our recycling vendor, Tidewater Fiber. You’ll see it, along with some interesting facts on recycling at W&M, in some of the most traveled areas of campus until Sunday.

Some of the highlights for Sunday’s event:

  • A Recycled Fashion Show will be held at 3:45! All students are welcome to attend in any sort of recycled outfit! Judging the show will be Modern Languages professor Regina Root, along with two students from Professor Root’s Ethical Fashion class. President Reveley will also make an appearance as a guest celebrity judge! The winner will receive a WaWa gift card!
  • Bring a recyclable item and enter a raffle to win another WaWa gift card.
  • Alpha Phi Omega will be giving away free recycled notebooks. Finally, a use for all of those Swem printer cover sheets…
  • Free cider will be provided — as long as you bring your own cup, of course!
  • Goodwill Industries, Trader Joe’s, and Harris Teeter will be giving away free reusable shopping bags.
  • There will be plenty of live music from campus bands.

So make sure to come out Sunday from 2-5 for America Recycles Day. Looks like it’ll be a great time!

November 12th, 2009

Attend the Williamsburg Farmer’s Market this Saturday!

This Saturday, October 31st, the Williamsburg Farmer’s Market will be celebrating Duke of Gloucester Street’s being named one of the ten Great Streets in America for 2009 by the American Planning Association. Come out to DoG Street at 9AM for the ceremony! While you’re there, bring 10 plastic bags to exchange for a free reusable tote bag, courtesy of the City of Williamsburg. The market with also have battery and cell phone recycling set up!

October 28th, 2009

Aramark & Dining Services celebrate National Campus Sustainability Day

Dining Services at W&M has been one of the most forward-thinking and proactive units on campus in terms of embracing and improving sustainability, partly because of the new environmentally-friendly mindset of our dining vendor, Aramark. In particular, Larry Smith and Matt Moss, the directors of Dining Services here at the College (and Aramark employees), have been extremely helpful in working alongside of COS and various student groups to improve sustainable practices in the dining halls.

Just this year, Larry secured Aramark funding for three student interns, one in each of the main dining halls, to improve recycling, composting, and sustainable food purchasing at the College. Beginning in August, three undergrads (Ian Fuller ’11, Christy Ottinger ’10, and Sarah Will ’10) have been working 10-15 hours per week, creating and implementing their own sustaianability projects. One in particular they’ve been putting together is for National Campus Sustainability Day, which is next week on Wednesday, October 21.

I’ve asked Sarah, the sustainability intern at the Commons Cafeteria, to summarize the events of that day, and to give an overview of what they’ve been doing for the past two months:

October 21st is National Campus Sustainability Day. Special menus will be featured at each dining hall that implement local and sustainable ingredients and meals. At the Marketplace, each HomeZone dish will be centered on a different local food item, and the Commons and the Sadler Center will both feature a “Green, Greener, Greenest” menu.

In addition to providing “green” meals on National Campus Sustainability Day, Ian, Christy, and Sarah have been implementing sustainable initiatives in dining facilities across campus. They have expanded recycling programs in the kitchens at Miller, the Sadler Center, and the Commons. The Commons now has centralized condiment dispensers to reduce the amount of plastic waste from individual condiment containers. There are new recycling containers in the Campus Center lobby to promote recycling after meals at the Marketplace. The Sadler Center and EcoHouse participated in a pilot program for reusable take-out containers, funded by the Committee on Sustainability, that will be expanded in the Spring semester. Reusable mugs and to-go mugs can now be found side-by-side in both the Sadler Center and the Commons.
Look out for the interns on Wednesday in each of the dining halls, and feel free to give them any ideas of your own!

October 16th, 2009

Student Volunteers: Recycling

In light of the College receiving an A for student involvement in the latest College Sustainability Report Card, over the next few days I would like to highlight a few of the student volunteer efforts that make W&M so successful and unique among universities making strides in sustainability. There are quite a few student organizations and individuals who have put their hard work into making W&M a more environmentally friendly campus, and we owe them enormously for their efforts!

One of the most visible environmental issues on this or any campus is recycling. Accepted as one of the basic institutional commitments to sustainability, most every campus in the nation has some sort of recycling program. Here at W&M, our system is a bit unique in that it relies on the effort of student and staff volunteers. Cash-strapped as we are, it is up to individuals in offices or buildings across campus to collect their own recycling and take it to one of the large blue 8-cubic-yard Tidewater Fiber dumpsters located around campus.

As such, a few student organizations have grouped together in order to provide a more streamlined and efficient recycling program for many areas of campus. The Student Environmental Action Coalition, the Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity, and the Student Assembly have partnered on a volunteer recycling program that services much of old campus, both in academic buildings and outdoors. Those of you walking around campus should have noticed the new blue receptacles on the Sunken Garden and around the Sadler Center terrace. Provided by the Student Assembly & Facilities Management, and emptied by Alpha Phi Omega, these bins allow members of the College community to recycle on the go.

Emptying recycling bins is a never-ending (and sometimes thankless) process, and the students in APO, SEAC, and the SA who do it are often invisible to those walking by the bins each day. Their efforts, however, do not go unnoticed, and we thank them all for their great work!

October 14th, 2009

The week in summary

My apologies for the radio silence over the past few days — the requisite early-fall illness creeping across campus hit me early in the week. No flu, though, thankfully!

What’s been happening this week? Well, we had our first Steering Committee meeting for the Committee on Sustainability, and we welcomed our two new student representatives to Steering: Caroline Cress ’10 will be representing undergraduates and co-chairing the Programs and Education Subcommittee, and Dan Conant of the School of Education will be representing graduate students and co-chairing the Operations Subcommittee. Among the numerous topics of the Steering meeting were a reorganization (we’ve eliminated the Finance working group, split Physical Plant into Energy and Waste/Recycling, and added a Procurement group into STAC), the large outpouring of student volunteers for COS (over 40 applications!), and the numerous projects coming down the pipes (releasing a sustainability academic audit, launching the Eco Ambassador Program, etc.).

Last week also saw the first official days of work for the Sustainability Interns hired by Dining Services & Aramark! Christy Ottinger ’10, Sarah Will ’10, and Ian Fuller ’11 will be working in the numerous dining facilities across campus to improve recycling practices in both dining and preparation areas, create a composting program, support increased purchasing of local, seasonal, organic, fair trade, and cage-free foods, and promote awareness of food sustainability issues on campus. Students, keep an eye out for them in your dining halls! I’ll be working with them mostly in regards to the creation of a composting program for Dining Services. Hopefully, with the help of the College and Aramark, we can get a large-scale composting program going by the end of the year!

The College also saw the release of the state’s budget expectations for next year — with poor news for anyone involved. As the year continues, you’ll see some information from me and COS about how much money our recent sustainability efforts have saved the College; preliminary estimates have us breaking $100,000 in savings each year, with more surely to come!

September 12th, 2009

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