Ohio University and the Athens community have been leaders in recycling and zero waste for decades. In 1984, Athens became the first community to offer curbside recycling pick up. In 1991, Ohio University became the first university in the state of Ohio to establish a recycling department. Through the years, with the help of Rural Action, events such as the Pawpaw Festival and Nelsonville Music Festival have set the gold standard on how to run large events with near zero landfill.

Now, with the recent opening of Athens Hocking Recycling Center’s Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) on Poston Road in The Plains, the Southeast Ohio community is leaping forward again. Mixed recycling, also known as single-stream recycling, now allows all types of paper, cardboard, #1 through #7 plastic, glass bottles, as well as steel and aluminum cans to be recycled together — no sorting needed.

“One of the many advantages of single-stream recycling is that it makes the act of recycling literally as easy as landfill,” said Andrew Ladd, recycling and refuse manager at Ohio University. “The new sorting facility now allows Ohio University to focus on simplifying recycling systems and accelerate the pace of placing new recycling bins.”

With a focus on establishing outdoor recycling opportunities, two recently awarded grants are allowing OHIO to do just that.

Cataloguing all outdoor waste bins in the spring of 2015 demonstrated that across the sidewalks and greens of campus there were more than 315 outdoor bins to send materials to the landfill and only 13 to recycle. Work is now underway to change that ratio. When the entire conversion is complete, the University will see the number of outdoor trash bins reduced to approximately 200 sites and ensure recycling is co-located at each.

“Co-location is the practice of providing recycling opportunities directly next to every ‘trash’ can,” Ladd said. “The project will reduce landfill, increase recycling opportunities, serve as a powerful teaching tool and grow the culture of sustainability at Ohio University and across Southeast Ohio.”

Over the last two months Campus Recycling has successfully converted 70 landfill bins to recycling including all locations in the West Green residential area. To accomplish the West Green conversion, a Waste Management/Keep America Beautiful Think Green grant provided $4,500 towards the purchase of new lids with new recycling graphics. These allowed what were 26 trash-only locations to be converted into 13 co-located recycling opportunities.

Ohio University is one of 39 recipients nationwide of the Waste Management/Keep America Beautiful Think Green Grant.

Entering another phase of the project, making use of a $31,170 grant provided by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency towards a project in combination with $27,500 in Campus Recycling funds, Ohio University is installing all new co-located recycling stations across College Green. Between March 9 and April 4, College Green from Park Place to the College Gate and from Memorial Auditorium to Chubb Hall, is undergoing a recycling facelift.

The outdoor bin conversion coincides with RecycleMania 2016. RecycleMania is a competition between colleges and universities across the United States and Canada to increase recycle awareness and recycling recovery rates. It began in 2001 when OU challenged Miami University to a friendly competition and has since grown exponentially across North America.

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