New Recycling Initiative Diverts Residents’ Cardboard, Plastic Foam from Landfills

A student and his family dispose of cardboard during move-in Image by Pamela Beckvagni
A student recycles a cardboard box during the university's first Sustainable Move-In event.

By Ed Brennen

Nearly 4,800 students moved in to campus residence halls this fall, many of them bringing brand new items like lamps, fans, printers and TVs packed in cardboard boxes and plastic foam.

To ensure that all that packaging didn’t end up in landfills, the Office of Sustainability coordinated its first-ever Sustainable Move-In event across campus.

Over move-in weekend, a team of six Sustainability Resource Ambassadors and four student volunteers in bright yellow vests helped students and their families dispose of their discarded packaging and other refuse in the proper locations.

They collected 62 large trash bags of plastic foam and enough clean, recyclable cardboard to fill four large dumpsters – all of which will be repurposed by the university’s vendors Casella Hauling and Allied Computer Brokers.

Sustainable Move-In coordinators pose with plastic foam that was collected Image by courtesy
Student Resource Ambassador Austin Thoren and Environmental & Sustainability Waste Management Coordinator Pamela Beckvagni pose with plastic foam collected during move-in weekend.
“The ambassadors did a great job, and the new students and their families were eager to help,” says Environmental & Sustainability Waste Management Coordinator Pamela Beckvagni. “We didn’t get it all, but we made a huge dent in what could have ended up in a landfill.”

At the Engagement Fair following Convocation, the Sustainability Resource Ambassadors were also on hand to help teach students, staff and faculty how to properly sort their waste in dining halls and around campus.

“It was a very busy and successful three days,” Beckvagni says.

The university was recently recognized as a top performer in the area of waste reduction in the 2019 Sustainable Campus Index, published by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.