Trash into Treasure – Innovation Recycling Initiatives on College Campuses

Trash into Treasure – Innovation Recycling Initiatives on College Campuses

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With the average college student producing 640 pounds of solid waste each year, college administrators across the country and students themselves know that something must change. As students at the University of Georgia (UGA) discovered, trash just isn’t something that most people think about. This is especially true of those who are college aged since they have grown up in an era where nearly everything is disposable.

Lindsay Pennington, who was a senior during the 2013-2014 school year, knew that she had to make a visual impact about the effects of trash before her peers would be willing to do anything about it.

For her senior project that year, Pennington created “The Salon from Refuse.”  She grabbed the attention of students and faculty alike by using a 40-pound dumpster to display sculptures she made from items people had discarded around campus.

Pennington was fortunate to have the support of the Office of Sustainability and Facilities Management Division at UGA when presenting her project. Earlier that school year, it had installed 30 landfill compactors and solar-powered mixed recycling machines.

This replaced 150 trash cans on campus and has allowed the college to significantly reduce its trash output. Between Pennington’s visual representation and the new opportunities to recycle, attitudes towards trash are changing at UGA.

Greenbean Recycle Makes an Impact on Trash at Colleges in the Boston Area

Greenbean Recycle, an environmentally conscious company located in greater Boston, knows how to make recycling fun for college students and faculty. In late 2014, the organization held a competition to see which of several local colleges could recycle the most trash. The competition took place in the two weeks leading up to America Recycles Day. It got college students thinking about the issue of recycling by making it fun and exciting to compete with other students.

Signing students up at Northeastern's Marino Center

A post shared by Greenbean Recycle (@gbrecycle) on

Greenbean also offers several innovate recycling solutions. Its reverse vending machines accept empty cans and  bottles once the student has finished drinking from them. He or she puts it into an opening and it crunches the can or bottle right on the spot. It also provides instant feedback to the student on the environmental effects of his or her decision to recycle. For college students always looking for ways to earn money, getting five cents back per recycled can or bottle doesn’t hurt either. The money goes directly to the student’s campus card, PayPal account, or charity of their choice.

Student Entrepreneurs

While still in his first year of college at Villanova University, Charlie Dolan founded Sequoia Waste Solutions after noticing the overflowing trash receptacles of local small businesses.

Along with his brother and a friend, he developed an algorithm that optimized trash collection routes and cut costs for these companies. This was essential as most didn’t have the budget to justify signing a contract with a large waste management company.

What makes the company truly stand out is that it provides each customer with personalized data about their waste generation.

Today’s college students are the business leaders of tomorrow. It makes sense to model responsible recycling habits on campus so they carry that with them for a lifetime.

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