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Following the successful launch of mixed recycling in Mathey College and Wilson College last spring, the rest of the residential halls have shifted to mixed recycling as well. Under the new system, students no longer have to sort their recyclable trash into paper and cardboard or cans and bottles.

Students received new trash bins for their rooms over fall break. While the old trash bins were labeled “mixed paper and cardboard,” the new trash bins are bigger and are labeled “mixed recycling.” Director of Building Services Jonathan Baer explained that more than half of all the bins in students’ rooms have been replaced with the new trash bins, and he expects the rest of the bins to be replaced over winter break.

Baer added that Building Services has not decided what to do yet with the old bins but explained that they were exploring donating the bins or recycling the bins themselves.

Greening Princeton co-president Misha Semenov ’15 explained that waste had been leaving the University as mixed recycling even before the change in the residential colleges. He added that the gradual shift starting last spring was done to test the process on a smaller scale and to figure out how to best educate students about the change.

Director of the Office of Sustainability Shana Weber explained that while her office had been pushing for the change for a few years, the changes really started to take effect once Greening Princeton got involved. Both Weber and Baer said that Greening Princeton was a driving force in causing the change, noting the organization's effective and thorough campaign during the pilot program in the spring.

Greening Princeton is an organization of undergraduate and graduate students that works with University administrators to improve environmental sustainability on campus.

“Whenever you want to create change, the biggest obstacle is always when our office, the students and other University departments aren't on the same page, or there's a lack of involvement from one of those three parties,” Weber explained. “Thankfully, in this case, the students were very active, and Building Services was really helpful as well.”

Semenov noted that before the shift to mixed recycling, many students had already been mixing paper, cardboard, cans and bottles in one bin, and because the bin was only meant for paper and cardboard, all the cans and bottles ended up in regular trash instead.

Weber said that the next step for the University would be to relabel the trash receptacles in common areas and the outdoor trash bins on campus to maintain consistency. Semenov noted that even though some of the bins have not been relabeled yet, all the recycling bins on campus do take mixed recycling.

Semenov added that in the longer term, the University should think about more ways to deal with its waste and explained that Greening Princeton plans to launch a composting study in the next year. He added that he hopes for the bins to eventually have three compartments: landfill, recycling and composting.

“Recycling is actually the worst and the least of our concerns when it comes to sustainability — obviously, we should be thinking about how not to generate waste in the first place,” Semenov said.

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