Greening Princeton Pilot Results in Single-Stream Recycling Switch

recycling bins
Posted on December 16, 2013

Last month, the student group Greening Princeton and Building Services collaborated to launch a single-stream recycling pilot in more than 100 rooms in two dorms: Edwards Hall in Mathey College and 1939 Hall in Wilson College. Currently, most students have only paper recycling bins in their rooms, while plastic, metal and glass recycling receptacles are located in the hallways, so are not always easily accessible or clearly labeled.

After confirming as part of the pilot study that many students were placing recyclables in their paper recycling bins or trash cans, which was driving down recycling rates, the switch to single-stream collection was carried out in conjunction with a thoughtful education campaign. Greening Princeton group members spent two weeks knocking on every door in the dorms to distribute new recycling bin labels and information flyers and to answer students’ recycling questions. 

student sorting recyclablesGreening Princeton members audited hallway waste and recycling bins to determine recycling rates.
student education about recyclingThe success of the pilot was attributed to the aggressive education and email campaign.

In the end, the pilot was a success. The switch to single-stream collection resulted in a 20 percent increase in recycling and when asked for their opinions following the pilot, 100 percent of participating students approved of switching over. Fueled by evidence that single-stream collection will boost Princeton’s recycling rates, Building Services will soon begin transitioning the University’s recycling collection system to single-stream by placing new labels on bins in residential halls followed by administrative buildings next year.

Greening Princeton attributes the success of the pilot to the education campaign and emphasizes the need to continue to clearly communicate how the collection system works over time. “In seeing my peers consistently putting recyclables in the wrong bins simply out of convenience or lack of information for the past two years, I am so happy that Greening Princeton's pilot has shown that single-stream recycling not only increases recycling rates, but is unanimously preferred to the current recycling system,” said Olivia Howard ‘15, co-president of Greening Princeton. “As we roll out single-stream recycling to other residential halls so that it is eventually campus-wide, we hope to continue increasing the recycling rate through new educational campaigns, especially focusing on incoming freshmen and the Residential College Advisors program.”  

View the full results and conclusions of the Greening Princeton Single Stream recycling pilot.