In the last academic year, Bowdoin increased its recycling rate by 6%, from 29% to 35%, which is one percent greater than its goal. When it joined EPA’s voluntary WasteWise program last year as a partner organization, Bowdoin made a goal to increase the percentage of waste it recycles by 5% in the first year.
The College’s achievement is good news in a number of ways, according to Yoni Held ’14, Sustainable Bowdoin’s zero-waste coordinator. Not only does recycling remove garbage from the waste stream and decrease the College’s carbon footprint (recycling produces fewer greenhouse gases than waste disposal), it also reduces waste handling fees. To dispose of one ton of trash costs almost 10 times more than to dispose of the same amount of recyclables, according to Held.
Held works for the Sustainable Bowdoin office, which is trying to make Bowdoin carbon neutral by 2020. Among other carbon-reduction efforts on campus, Sustainable Bowdoin is decreasing the amount of trash generated here. In the past year, Held says a number of new initiatives have helped the college make gains in this area.
First, several zero-sort recycling bins have been set up outside on campus, with more to come. These are differentiated from black trashcans by their green color.
Second, the college has expanded its recycling program for all plastic film, including plastic bags. This means, for instance, all the bags that come into dining services and the libraries (new journals are wrapped in the stuff, as are lots of food products) are collected and recycled for use in such goods as composite lumber and park benches. The clear plastic bags in which recyclables are collected on campus are also recycled.
Bowdoin has also put up a new donation dumpster out by Brunswick Apartments to collect used goods for Goodwill stores.
Finally, Bowdoin will soon begin recycling its wooden pallets for reuse in the food industry.
Sustainable Bowdoin is also doing more outreach to students in dorms to encourage them to recycle. It has also made sure there is a recycling bin stationed next to every indoor trashcan on campus, with signs explaining what can be tossed inside the blue bins. One thing some people might not know is that it’s okay to recycle waste with some food residue, such as a bit of juice in a bottle or food in a carton.
These changes are the result of close cooperation among Sustainable Bowdoin, facilities, dining services, the college administration, and local businesses that collect recyclable materials, Held noted.
“We’re excited by the progress,” said Held,an environmental studies and government/legal studies major with a minor in earth and oceanographic science. “There is a tremendous amount of potential. Reductions in waste make up only a portion of the greater whole [of reducing carbon emissions], but they have a definite impact.”