Do you want better recycling? We have it covered!

Are you tired of your on-campus recycling bins being old, damaged, or even missing?! Then we have great news for you! New recycling bins are coming to a building near you! 

Northeastern is committed to making its Boston campus more sustainable, and advancing recycling is one way the university plans to achieve it. Sue Higgins, Associate Director for Materials and Recycling at Northeastern, and the team of seven waste management and recycling professionals lead the charge to advance recycling on campus. Maria Cimilluca, Vice President for Facilities at Northeastern University, and Mark Boulter, Senior Director of Building Services, are strong advocates of this initiative and were among the first supporters to highlight the importance of the recycling bin renovation project.

According to Sue, one of the best ways to increase the recycling amount of discarded material is to locate recycling bins close to trash containers, thus providing an opportunity for people to recycle rather than discard items in regular garbage. With this change, Sue hopes to increase the recycling rate and decrease the contamination of recyclable materials. It is important to note that Northeastern minimizes the practice of single-stream recycling where everything is mixed. Apart from single-stream recycling containers in outdoor areas, recyclable material on campus is being separated and deposited in special compactors. This approach increases the value and recyclability of the material collected and can result in cost savings.

Three crucial parameters were established at the start of the recycling bin renovation project: commonality, accessibility, and aesthetics. Every building on campus is unique and requires different accommodations. The team conducted research to understand the occupancy levels and foot traffic through each building to determine the proper container size and effective placement. The aim was to choose functional and aesthetically pleasing bins that would work in academic buildings, administrative buildings, athletic facilities, and high-profile event and meeting spaces. The intent was also to provide consistency, making it easy for the campus community to recycle the same regardless of what building they are in.

The final composition of the recycling stations includes three different containers, color-coded and designated for three separate purposes: bottles/cans (white), paper (grey), and trash (black). Unnecessary and excessive signage was purposefully avoided, alternatively choosing lid decals provided by Recycle Across America. Each type of container was fitted with a unique lid design appropriate for the material collected, which helps to further guide the proper use of the bins. Containers themselves are made in the USA, with over thirty percent recycled content. The quality of the material allows for 100% of post-consumer recyclability at the future, end of useful life for the containers.

Approximately 200 sets or 600 individual bins were installed across 26 academic buildings in the summer of 2020. The bins were well received by faculty, staff, and students and proved functional, durable, and effective. Based on the success of the program, an additional 210 sets of recycling stations were installed in the summer of 2021, with approximately 50 buildings on the Boston campus now being equipped with the new recycling stations.  It is anticipated that all buildings suitable for recycling stations in publicly accessible areas will be properly equipped over the course of the next year. Old waste and recycling containers that were removed from the buildings have been repurposed where appropriate or recycled if no longer usable.

The Northeastern community is encouraged to actively participate in recycling on campus, helping us to more sustainably and responsibly manage the waste we generate. If you are aware of an area that recycling stations are needed or observe an existing station that requires servicing, please submit a work request or contact [email protected].  Active participation from the members of the Northeastern community would be greatly appreciated to ensure proper placement of additional stations in the year ahead and advancement of our recycling initiatives.

For more sustainability at Northeastern-related stories, follow Northeastern’s Office of Sustainability on social media and stay up to date with on-campus sustainability news 🙂 


Written by Alex Gritsinin – September 27th, 2021

Related Posts