Individuals passing through the Diag may notice new earth-friendly alternatives to trash cans in place as of September 21, 2011. Six recycling bins were permanently installed by U-M Grounds Services to encourage outdoor recycling on campus.
The new bins are shaped like traditional trash cans, but are bright blue and adorned with signage to attract recyclers and educate them on which materials are accepted in the bins. The bins were previously located on Ingalls Mall prior to being moved to the Diag. The installation was part of the Planet Blue sustainability initiative.
“The unique design for the bins was influenced by the need to help people differentiate between the trash cans and the recycling bins,” said Tracy Artley, sustainability program coordinator with Plant Building and Grounds Services. “In previous attempts to offer outdoor recycling, trash contamination of the recycling bins was a big issue and resulted in the disposal of entire batches of recycled materials”.
Trash contamination occurs when garbage is mixed into recycle containers. The university is allowed up to the level of nine percent contamination of the recyclables taken to the city of Ann Arbor's Materials Recovery Facility. For every 10 recyclables placed in the bin, there must be less than one non-recyclable item included. In the event the mix includes more than nine percent of non-recyclables, the ratio is over the accepted level, is considered trash and is sent to landfills.
“Combatting the issue of trash contamination has been a long standing issue for the university. However, with the new signage and increased awareness of the issue, the Office of Waste Reduction and Recycling is hopeful that the campus community will recycle responsibly and reduce contamination levels,” added Artley.
Inspired by requests from students, the installation of the bins is the result of a partnership between the students of the Student Sustainability Initiative and Michigan Student Assembly and campus operations.
The graphic recycling bins are the first of their kind on campus and, if properly used, could lead to other installations on campus. For more information on recycling, please visit U-M Recycling.