Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Friday, September 23, 2011

New Planet Blue recycling bins installed on Diag

Individuals passing through the Diag may notice new earth-friendly alternatives to trash cans. On Wednesday, six recycling bins were permanently installed by Grounds Services to encourage outdoor recycling on campus.

    Above, maintenance mechanic Rick Privett of Grounds Services installs a new recycling bin on the Diag. (Photo by Daryl Marshke, U-M Photo Services)


More information

• During EarthFest on Tuesday, Planet Blue Ambassadors will conduct a waste sort of the new recycling bins to determine the level of trash contamination occurring and evaluate the level of compliance by the campus community to the recycling requirements. Click here for more information on EarthFest.

REMINDER: President Mary Sue Coleman will deliver an address on sustainability prior to EarthFest.

Click here for more information on U-M recycling.

The new bins are shaped like traditional trash cans, but are bright blue and adorned with signage to attract recyclers and educate them on which materials are accepted in the bins. The bins previously were located on Ingalls Mall. The installation was part of the Planet Blue sustainability initiative.

"The unique design for the bins was influenced by the need to help people differentiate between the trash cans and the recycling bins," says Tracy Artley, sustainability program coordinator with Plant Building and Grounds Services. "In previous attempts to offer outdoor recycling, trash contamination of the recycling bins was a big issue and resulted in the disposal of entire batches of recycled materials."

Trash contamination occurs when garbage is mixed into recycle containers. The university is allowed up to 9 percent contamination of the recyclables taken to the city of Ann Arbor's Materials Recovery Facility. For every 10 recyclables placed in the bin, less than one nonrecyclable item is allowed. In the event the mix includes more than 9 percent nonrecyclables, the ratio is more than the accepted level, is considered trash and is sent to landfills.

"Combating the issue of trash contamination has been a long standing issue for the university. However, with the new signage and increased awareness of the issue, the Office of Waste Reduction and Recycling is hopeful that the campus community will recycle responsibly and reduce contamination levels," Artley says.

Inspired by requests from students, the installation of the bins is the result of a partnership between the Student Sustainability Initiative, Michigan Student Assembly and campus operations.  

The graphic recycling bins are the first of their kind on campus and, if properly used, could lead to other installations on campus.