Recycling vs. Rumors of Recycling

We’ve heard some disconcerting rumors about recycling on campus, suggesting that IWU does not actually recycle but that all the bags of items set aside for recycling are thrown out with the trash without being looked at.

Let’s demystify this: Supervisor of Labor Services Lawney Gruen collects recycling and trash on campus and sorts it daily. Members of the campus community have participated in ride-alongs with him and his crew, and witnessed these efforts first-hand.

As alarming as this “conspiracy theory” about phony recycling is, it can serve to raise our awareness about the importance of education about recycling — and how everyone’s cooperation is needed to keep contamination from negating our efforts.

Contamination is the only reason that recyclable materials would be thrown away. Particularly, if food or garbage (especially liquids) are mixed in with recycling, a whole bag of items might be discarded because the contamination can’t feasibly be undone and the materials are not suitable for recycling.

The crews from Physical Plant use their professional judgment in evaluating contamination, but each of us can help:

  • Make sure you sort properly — paper with paper and acceptable containers with acceptable containers.
  • Correct contamination when you see it.
  • Help educate peers. And,
  • “When in doubt, throw it out” so as not to contaminate good recyclables with something you’re unsure about or that can’t actually be recycled.

Here are some handy guidelines for what can be recycled.

Some good news: a transition to single-stream recycling next fall will make sorting easier on campus. The town of Normal is terminating its agreement to take our recyclables and will remove the “roll-off” containers at the Shirk Center parking lot, but the University will be contracting with a new vendor and finding new collection sites on campus.

Single-stream recycling means no more sorting paper from cans & bottles! Watch for more information as we make this change.


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