KOKOMO, Ind. — Buying new waste bins may not seem like a big deal.
But the new containers going in at Indiana University Kokomo represent the first steps towards a bold goal — to have 75 percent of campus waste recycled.
Each one contains two options: recycle, or landfill. Additional bins will be placed in the remaining campus buildings within the next year, with the aim of increasing recycling from the current 25 percent, according to John Sarber, director of physical facilities.
“When you walk up to it, you make a conscious decision. ‘Do I want to send that to recycling, or do I want to send it to a landfill?’,” Sarber said. “The designations make you think about what you’re doing when you dispose of waste.”
Currently, the containers are available in the Kelley Student Center and the Library, with plans to have them campuswide within a year to 18 months.
While facilities provides the bins, the Office of Sustainability leads education efforts, teaching people how to use them. Interns Debi Pellam, Tabitha Pelgen, and Brittany Miller plan educational activities and marketing materials for an official roll-out campaign starting in January.
“As a leader in our community, we should also be a leader in recycling efforts,” said Pellam. “I think our efforts to promote recycling on campus are important, and the new bins will help, especially as we get more educational efforts into play.”
Pelgen is excited to teach others how they can make a difference in sustainability with just a few small changes in their routine, like recycling a plastic bottle instead of throwing it in the trash.
“I hope IU Kokomo can serve as an example to others of what a sustainable campus looks like, and that begins with simple steps like recycling,” she said. “I’m hoping our new bins and educational efforts encourage students and faculty to think about where their waste is going, and that will lead to our campus recycling as much of it as possible.”
Trash cans in private offices are transitioning to all recycling, with any waste that cannot be recycled, such as Styrofoam cups, banana peels, and used tissues, disposed of in landfill containers in main hallways.
“That gives people a huge incentive to recycle, because it’s easier than having to find a landfill container,” said Leda Casey, campus coordinator for the Office of Sustainability.
Miller will design magnets and other materials for offices and near the bins, to remind people what can and cannot be recycled, as well as plan outreach to increase awareness of how to make a difference.
They anticipate cooperation from students, who have learned to recycle starting in elementary school, and who expect to have opportunities to do so in college.
“It is important for IU Kokomo to be part of sustainability efforts,” Casey added, noting that local schools recycle, and many cities in the area offer curbside recycling.
“It is vital as our community culture changes that we keep up with that, and are leaders in the effort to enhance sustainability in our communities,” she said. “The efforts we make are good for our cities, our state, and our planet, in the long term. We care about the future.”
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.