An institution known for its high-quality education would not go about creating a campus-wide recycling program without significant research and planning. This is most certainly the case at Yale University, which initiated a recycling program in early 1990 and since then has gradually developed the program to meet the needs of its population.
Yale’s 200 buildings house traditional offices and classrooms, a medical school, scientific laboratories, student residences, dining halls, power plants, athletic facilities, museums, and performance halls. The recycling program had to be adapted for each type of building to serve approximately 19,000 people, including students, faculty, and staff.
In April 1990, a 36-day pilot program was initiated in Calhoun College Dining Hall, which serves approximately 250 students. Employees collected steel and aluminum food and beverage cans, glass bottles, and HDPE plastic containers. At the end of the pilot program, all materials were brought to the Freddy Fixer recycling center in New Haven. At the center, the materials were weighed and assessed by volume. In the 36-day period, 281 pounds of steel and aluminum cans, 1196 pounds of glass bottles, and 21 pounds of HDPE plastic bottles were collected.
This means that in 36 days, each student produced approximately two pounds of dining hall recyclables. This also means that Calhoun produces approximately 100 pounds of recyclables each week and that five thousand undergraduate students with meal contracts will produce approximately 2,000 pounds, of one ton of recyclables, during a week of normal dining hall operation. After the pilot program was completed, a recycling program was gradually established to include all of the dining halls.
Another recycling program involves the use of 30-gallon recycling containers, which are 30-inches tall and 16-1/2 inches wide. The narrow containers were chosen to fit in the limited space of the buildings on campus.
“The buildings at Yale University, like their counterparts in England, were not built to accommodate recycling, said C.J. May, Recycling Coordinator. “So in order to implement a recycling program, we purchased containers that were built to accommodate Yale’s buildings.”
The containers are labeled and color-coded for: (1) cans and bottles, (2) office paper, and (3) newspaper. Since they are lined with bags, maintenance workers can easily and efficiently empty the containers, place the recyclables on a flatbed truck, and unloaded them into the appropriate 40-yard roll-off containers or take them to the local recycling facility.
Many Yale students were already accustomed to recycling since a student group called Yale Recycling has been collecting cans, bottles, and paper for recycling since the late 1970’s.
Now, even though the recycling containers are provided by the university itself, the student group still participates in the recycling process.
Recycling at Yale both serves an environmental purpose and assists in community development projects. For example, Outdoor Corps, a youth group led by Yale undergraduates, frequently helps to collect and recycle beverage containers from the residential colleges at Yale.