UW News

January 10, 2008

Then and now: Tons of progress in recycling since 1991

This school year, University Week, the UW campus newspaper for faculty and staff, turns 25. To note the occasion, throughout the year we’ll revisit some stories from our past, in no particular chronological order, and then provide a brief update on how things have changed over our quarter-century.

The headline read “Recycling program goes public” in the Feb. 7, 1991, University Week, and the story was the first in a series on recycling on campus.

Recycling containers had recently made their debut on campus, and, the story reported, “Program managers are delighted with the eager response the program is receiving, even though some overzealous recyclers put the wrong things in the bin, which threatens to devalue the whole load.”

That’s still a concern, says Kristin Elko, program coordinator for the Recycling/Solid Waste Office, which is part of Transportation Services. “Some contamination still exists — recyclable items being put into the wrong recycling bin or nonrecyclables being put into a recycling bin.” They also have problems with recyclables being put into garbage containers.

But on the whole, recycling continues to grow on campus. During the 2007 Fiscal Year, which ended on Jun. 30, the UW recycled 1,904 tons of paper and cardboard, 191 tons of cans and bottles, 292 tons of food waste and 1,069 tons of landscape waste or yard waste.

The 1991 article also noted that paper used in food handling — napkins, paper cups and plates — was to be considered trash. But this, too, is changing, with composting now available for staff use at the loading areas of about 40 UW buildings, including many of the campus restaurants and coffee shops. And employees are voluntarily composting in their office break rooms and kitchens. You can find out more information on composting by visiting www.uwrecycling.com/food_waste or by e-mailing recycle@u.washington.edu.  

Beginning Jan. 1, 2005, Seattle businesses and residences were prohibited from disposing of paper and cardboard in the garbage. Elko said that not everyone on campus knows that the Recycling Office offers large paper recycling bins for office cleanouts and moves, a free service. For more information, visit online at www.uwrecycling.com/cleanout_req.