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Northwestern Implementing “Mixed Recycling”

New collection practices will align campuses with Evanston, Chicago

  • Paper and cardboard will no longer need to be separated from cans, bottles and plastics
  • Changes to receptacles will be fully implemented on both campuses by the end of April
  • Streamlining recycling makes collections easier and increases participation

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Northwestern University will begin streamlining recycling services in the coming weeks as it works towards its target of reducing waste to landfill by 20 percent over the next four years.

The University will switch from dual-stream recycling to single “mixed recycling,” where paper and cardboard are collected with cans, bottles and plastics in the same recycling bin.

“This change will make recycling more convenient for campus participants, potentially pushing our recycling rate higher. It will also streamline recycling bin needs and make collections easier,” Julie Cahillane, a manager in the Office of Sustainability, said. “We want to make recycling effective and easy for the Northwestern community.” 

Changes to receptacles will be implemented in most common areas by the end of April. The rollout involves updating labeling, replacing bin lids and training for campus custodians and the greater community on the changes.

The new collection method will bring the University in line with residential recycling practices in both the cities of Evanston and Chicago. 

By combining metals, plastics and paper products in the recycling process, Northwestern aims to have a more balanced landfill-to-recycle ratio by 2020. Last year the University recycled more than 2,600 tons, making recycling 39 percent of its total waste. That number has grown significantly since 2010 when 28 percent of waste was recycled.

During this transition, recycling collection will continue in all facilities. Those on campus can now use any recycling receptacle for acceptable materials. Regardless of how a bin is labeled, it will no longer be necessary to keep paper and cardboard separate from plastic, glass and cans.

After years of separating recycling to support the collection of clean, high-grade office paper, the industry has fine-tuned mixed recycling systems and the ability to separate clean recyclables from the process.

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