Assessing NYU’s Single Bin Recycling

on 5 November, 2010

NYU made the switch to single stream recycling in its residence halls this year, which allows students to throw everything into one container and let the city/recycling companies take care of the rest. Sounds great, right? Less work for us busy students and an extra moment in the day where we can do something good while simultaneously letting our overworked brains rest. But (as with everything ever done at NYU), the move has as many supporters as it does opponents (and other people who either haven’t noticed or are just generally confused).

Proponents of single stream recognize that it simply makes more people recycle; some point out that moving the sorting process out of homes and into the hands of waste management companies creates more jobs.

So what could be bad about an easier recycling system? Well, it has much higher starting costs, for one, because of the equipment involved. And while it’s easier for you, it’s more complicated for the products. Opponents believe that, because people will pay less attention to what they’re doing, non-recyclables are more likely to mix with recyclables, requiring the redirection of whole batches to landfills. This same lack of attention, they argue, might decrease education and awareness about the recycling process.

UPDATE: Diane Anderson, the Manager of Sustainable Resources at NYU, who is responsible for recycling initiatives, explains that NYU’s goal is to “increase the amount of recycling collected” by simplifying the system. No longer having to empty multiple bins into multiple receptacles has streamlined unnecessarily burdensome work for F&CM workers. The start up costs were minimal because they already had the general infrastructure in place; it was “generally just an issue of relabeling bins” a task for which they employed “both full-time and student employees.”

Considering the minimal cost of switching, the increased recycling and the streamlining of work without eliminating jobs, NYU’s new single stream recycling system was a smart move.