MARK BUCKAWICKI/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

A landfill sign at the Four Hills Landfill in Nashua, New Hampshire. Stony Brook University is not yet using the single stream recycling system. MARK BUCKAWICKI/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Stony Brook University initiated its recycling program in 1987, focusing on paper and cardboard. Over the years, the program evolved to include bottles, cans, plastics, metals, clothing and more. Unfortunately, in past five years, the amount of recycled waste has decreased by almost one thousand tons. With an increasing list of recyclable materials, the tonnage should be soaring. Stony Brook University has more than ten different types of recycling receptacles, ranging from three-bin receptacles to open-top bins and “Slim Jim” receptacles in dormitories.

With such variety, recycling becomes a hassle for college students to take the time to read each bin and decide what goes where. To combat this problem, Stony Brook University must undertake single stream recycling and composting to improve its recycling program and student participation.

Single stream recycling means that all recyclable materials can be placed into one recycling bin. Single stream bins do not have restricted openings specifically for bottles or paper, but can fit all types of recyclable materials making recycling convenient for the consumer. Universities such as Maryland University have switched to single stream recycling and since seen increases in their recycling rate. Paper, plastics, cardboard, aluminum, books, steel and tin cans, waxed cartons and glass can all be recycled in single stream bins, thus eliminating the need for students to sort their own recyclables and potentially sorting their materials into improper containers.

The convenience of single stream recycling will improve participation throughout university faculty, students and staff. With elevated participation comes a gross increase in materials collected. The university itself will save money on collection costs by having less trash to dispose of. Sorting facilities will benefit from not having to sort through recyclables placed in improper receptacles.

Instead, the collected materials can be sent to Brookhaven Green Stream Recycling Center that is designed for single stream recycling. Brookhaven’s machines use a variety of technology to efficiently sort through recyclables.

Most importantly, the environment will benefit. Single stream recycling conserves our natural resources, and improved recycling rates mean less trash being trucked across state lines to landfills. Recyclables can be picked up on a single day rather than spread out across the week, saving time, money and gas, reducing truck emissions.  

To further improve waste reduction, Stony Brook University needs to revisit its composting project started in the 2009-2010 academic year. Over 2,750 gallons of kitchen waste was turned into compost material. By increasing this project to include compost bins in the dining halls and dormitories, Stony Brook University would reduce its waste significantly. Composting would also open up opportunities for students to take on research projects in the greenhouses and on growing food for the campus dining halls.

By switching to single stream recycling and jumping back on board with composting, Stony Brook University could be the next role model for top recycling universities. Single stream recycling makes recycling fast convenient and less expensive. What is there not to love about the single stream program? Benefits across the board on the individual level, university level and environmental level make single stream recycling the obvious choice.