WSU Pullman rolls out changes to campus recycling

Image chart with instructions for recycling trash.

By Rachel Webber, WSU News

A global shift in the recycling market has led to changes in how and what kinds of items WSU Pullman will accept in campus waste and recycle bins.

“The big problem we are addressing is contamination,” said Rick Finch, manager of WSU Facilities Operations Waste Management, referring to when trash, soiled food containers and other nonrecyclable items are tossed in with otherwise clean recycling.

Waste and recycled products from the U.S. are typically shipped abroad, where most of the world’s recycling vendors are located. But those vendors have begun taking less recycling, largely because of the increased costs associated with processing contaminated items.

“Now, going forward what needs to happen, not just at WSU, not just in Pullman, but nationwide and worldwide, is we have to come up with clean recyclables that have an end market,” Finch said.

In an effort to clean up WSU’s recycling stream, fewer types of items will be accepted in recycling bins until vendors begin accepting more items again. Locations that tend to collect excessive contamination, such as all public outdoor containers, will have the recycling option removed until there is an increased awareness and compliance with the new program changes, Finch said. Outdoor containers designated for cardboard, along with those at residence halls and most WSU apartments, will still be available.

Anticipating the market changes, last year Finch met with stakeholders around campus, including Housing Services, Dining Services, WSU Athletics and other groups, to identify solutions.

Some of these changes are already in place, as All-Campus Picnic goers sorted their waste products into the three new designated bins: Food Only, Recycling and Landfill.

Finch said everyone on campus can help reduce waste by choosing to purchase items with less packaging, making sure they read the new signage, and placing items in their proper bins.

Clean recyclables:

  • Plastic water bottles
  • Aluminum cans
  • Brown paper bags
  • Newspapers
  • Laundry detergent bottles
  • Plastic milk jugs
  • Paperboard boxes
  • Only plastics #1 and #2 can be recycled, as these are the only plastics with significant market demand at this time.

Food only bins

Acceptable items include:

  • Food
  • Napkins

Anything not on the list should, at this time, be placed in a designated landfill bin.

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