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Greening Princeton, Building Services launch recycling pilot program

A single-stream recycling pilot program in 1939 and Edwards Halls was launched Monday through the collaborative efforts of Greening Princeton, a student group that promotes environmental sustainability, and University Building Services. Students in these buildings may dispose of all recyclable materials in one receptacle rather than separating them, as the current recycling system requires.

The debate over transitioning to single-stream recycling has been an ongoing one, according toDirector of Building Services Jonathan Baer. Building Services was already considering the switch when Greening Princeton Co-PresidentMisha Semenov ’15 approached Baer last semester with a proposal for a pilot program.


“Greening [Princeton] has been easy to work with. They’re enthusiastic, they’re energized, they’re thoughtful and they’ve done some very nice marketing for the pilot program,” Baer said.

Greening Princeton spent last week collecting data about current recycling trends in both 1939 and Edwards and will use this data to measure the effectiveness of single-stream recycling combined with outreach efforts to educate students about the process.

The organization is currently promoting the program through fliers, stickers and door-to-door communication, according to Semenov.

“We’re going around and knocking on every single door in Edwards and 1939 until we make sure we’ve talked to every single person,” he said. “I think at Princeton, most people don’t know anything about how our recycling system works,” he added.

The blue recycling bins provided to each dorm room only accommodate paper and cardboard, Semenov explained. Plastic bottles and cans must be disposed of separately. However, Greening Princeton’s data shows that many students were already using single-stream methods though the University does not. As a result, blue bins with incorrect contents are sent to regular trash instead of recycling.

A single-stream system, combined with educational campaigns, will increase recycling rates, members of Greening Princeton suggested. The group will collect data again next week to evaluate possible changes in student recycling behavior.


“What we found is that a lot of times people just find it inconvenient to sort through their garbage,” Zachariah DeGiulio ’17,Greening Princeton member and 1939 Hall resident, said.

He also said that students need to be careful not to mix contaminated materials, such as used napkins, with recyclables. “If you put one thing that’s non-recyclable in a recycling bin, it’s really difficult to recycle everything else,” he explained.

The issue of contamination is consistently raised as a possible downside to single-stream recycling. Semenov said Greening Princeton hopes to overcome this obstacle through improved communication.

“There is some evidence out there, from other institutions, that single-stream recycling doesn’t always result in higher recycling rates,” University Director of Sustainability Shana Weber, who is working with Greening Princeton to determine the most effective circumstances for recycling, said. Weber explained that the University has been cautious to make sure that when it doesmake the switch, that it is successful.

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In 2011, the University earned a cumulative grade of A-minus— its first A-range grade — on the College Sustainability Report Card published by the Sustainable Endowments Institute. Yale and Brown scored overall A’s in 2011, while Harvard and Columbia scored an A-minus and a B-plus, respectively.Assessment categories include student involvement, transportation, investment priorities and endowment transparency, for which the University received a D, its only sub-A grade.The institute ceased publication of college report cards after 2011.

Correction: Due to a reporting error, an earlier version of this story misstated the title of Greening PrincetonCo-PresidentMisha Semenov ’15. The 'Prince' regrets the error.