In our busy lives it’s sometimes hard to remember to take the extra time to recycle, but West Virginia University has made some improvements to help get everyone started and to help increase the amount recycled on and off campus.

Within the last year, the university has implemented new methods to help improve recycling on campus. According to Stephanie Toothman, a Conservation Specialist in the Office of Sustainability at West Virginia University,  the university switched to single stream recycling. This means that instead of having to separate recycled materials, they can all be combined when being collected.

On top of switching to single stream recycling, the university has also begun requiring employees to take out their own trash and recyclables. These methods were modeled after other schools. “It is becoming more of a common practice. We took it to the next level. We implemented an ’empty your own trash’ policy at the same time,” says Toothman, “By implementing [these methods] more recycling was actually happening. People are more mindful when you put the responsibility on the employees.”

Employees were issued two bins. One meant for recycled materials and the other for trash. They are responsible for taking them to designated areas. According to Toothman, now that maintenance employees are no longer going into each individual office to empty bins, they have more time for other duties such as cleaning stairwells, carpets, etc. more frequently, which helps to promote cleanliness in campus buildings.

When the university implemented single stream recycling and ‘take out your own trash’ methods, the office of sustainability only expected a 35 percent increase in recycled materials. To their surprise, West Virginia University actually increased its materials recycled by 60 percent. It almost doubled compared to what they expected! Toothman says, “The highest we had heard was 35 and we thought, ‘Hey, that’d be great!’ After one year of data we were ecstatic to see 60 percent.”

The university has also begun new trends for move in and move out day and has even started issuing each dorm room with its own recycling bin. I wish we had that when I was a freshman, but better late than never.

On move in days, the Office of Sustainability realized that a lot of cardboard was being thrown away from students unpacking. Out of the total recycled on campus, cardboard makes up more than 50 percent of materials. Now, on move in days they collect cardboard from students to recycle. In 2016 the university recycled 11 tons of cardboard on move in day.

The university has also started taking students’ unwanted materials when they move out, such as mini fridges, clothes, furniture, etc. The event is called Blue and Gold Mine Sale and materials are collected and then put in a type of yard sale. The university collaborates with United Way, and all proceeds earned from the yard sale are then given to United Way. In 2016 the university raised $14,000 and helped keep 25 tons from being sent to a landfill.

One of the most exciting things, in my opinion, is that W.V.U. is  currently participating in a recycling competition called RecycleMania. The competition began in February and lasts eight weeks. In the ‘Totaled Recycled’ category, W.V.U. has collected 256,130 pounds of materials and ranked 54th out of 202. Under ‘Waste Minimization, we have ranked 34th out of 125. There were 350 universities entered in the competition. Toothman says that the event was hosted on the concept of an even playing field. Since there were different student populations for each university, it was taken into consideration when judging the final amount recycled.

Apart from recycling, the university has also been researching ways to conserve electricity usage by monitoring meters across campus. It also provides recycling options for electronics through collaboration with a private electronics vendor, alkaline battery recycling and four outdoor textile recycling stations. The textile stations are located near Stansbury Hall, the Student Recreation Center, Mountaineer Station and Health Sciences. These stations are available to the public.

A lot of new students come and go at West Virginia University, so Toothman says that it can be hard to get the word out and keep it out. At least every four years there is a new whole new batch of students and it can be difficult to keep them informed.

Toothman gives presentations weekly to during new employee orientations to help inform them of the university’s recycling and trash program. She says, “I think that it’s been really helpful because they are learning immediately.”

“President Gee mentions this often, that we are one W.V.U. When we all get on board, great things will happen,” says Toothman, and I would have to agree based on these results.

If you don’t happen to recycle through the university, here are a few locations that will accept recyclable materials in Morgantown.

Shannon Stanley wishes you a happy Wednesday and hopes that you stay dry during this rainy week. You can follow me on twitter if you’d like to see more of my work or thoughts. 

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