New campus-wide recycling efforts will make UNT even greener

Thursday, July 31, 2014 - 19:53

New campus-wide recycling efforts will make UNT even greener

DENTON (UNT), Texas -- Outdoor recycling bins and solar trash compactors installed over the summer at the University of North Texas are giving students, faculty and staff more opportunities to keep recyclable materials out of landfills.

The new bins are part of a campus-wide effort led by UNT Sustainability and UNT Facilities to make recycling easier and more efficient at UNT. The program includes the installation of outdoor bins, and a reorganization of indoor recycling facilities backed up by a years-long research project UNT students conducted to monitor recycling behaviors. 

"We are excited about the new recycling era at UNT," said Brandon Zitar, UNT Sustainability operations coordinator. "A lot of thought has gone into ensuring the success of the new indoor and outdoor recycling infrastructure, and we can't wait to see the impact it has on our campus recycling program."

The solar compactors have a computer dashboard that will send information to UNT employees to monitor waste and recycling data. The information will also help to reduce the amount of time spent monitoring and removing waste from trash cans because compacting bins don't have to be emptied as often as standard trash cans.

The indoor component of the program is supported with data from a four semester-long research study by Associate Professor of Geography Lisa Nagaoka and her students.

The researchers created a baseline by monitoring recycling behaviors in several buildings at UNT, and found that occupants were recycling about 20-30 percent of the time. Then, researchers removed individual trash cans from classrooms and added recycling signage and waste stations, which are combined trash can and recycling bins, in the busiest areas of the buildings being researched. After those changes, researchers found that recycling went up to 80-90 percent.

"Overall, what we found in the study is that if you make it easy for people to recycle, by adding waste stations to busy spaces, they will choose to recycle over simply adding material to landfills," Nagaoka said.

The entire project was funded jointly by UNT Facilities and the We Mean Green Fund, a $5 per student fee funding environmentally-friendly and sustainable projects across campus. The fee was voted on and approved by a student majority during Earth Week 2010. UNT students, faculty and staff can propose sustainable projects online. The fund has supported projects including the installation of electric vehicle charging stations, filtered water stations to easily refill reusable water bottles, high performance hand dryers to eliminate paper towel waste in bathrooms, campus tree plantings and recycling bins.

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