Recycling makes an impact at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Story and multimedia by Nam Tran, NewsNetNebraska

Recycling at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln

In 2014 the University of Nebraska-Lincoln was able to divert 50 percent of it’s waste. While a lower percentage rate, UNL has been consistent in maintaining higher national average rates. Sure, 50 percent of diverted waste sounds amazing, but what does that number really mean in the bigger picture?

According to the office of Landscape Services at UNL, a result of the campus’ recycling efforts we were able to save (in Greenhouse Gas Emissions) the equivalent of 1 million pounds of coal burned, 2,407 barrels of oil, 218 passenger vehicles, 26,538 trees, a home’s electric use for a year and 371 tons of waste from being sent to the landfill.

UNL’s stats for 2014

All in all a very successfully year for the Huskers. Three years ago UNL was able to recycling 51 percent of campus waste, a nine percent increase from 2010. Jon Suek, second-year graduate student in music at UNL is one of two recycling coordinators on campus. Colton Berck, a first- year graduate in city planning at UNL is the other.

Go GREEN for Big RED

One of the many projects that both students oversee and that helps the university manage it’s waste is, “Go GREEN for Big RED.”

Go GREEN for Big RED is a recycling effort that we do for the tailgaters,” Suek said. “What we do is we hand out green bags to the tailgaters, we go out with volunteers and hand green bags out and tell them they can recycling with them.”

In it’s fifth consecutive year, “Go GREEN for Big RED” is an initiative in making recycling easier for people in tailgating at Nebraska. Ease is one of the most important things to consider when trying to encourage others to start or continue recycling Suek said

How UNL stacks up in the Big Ten Conference

Purdue University, one of the schools in the Big Ten Conference is widely known for it’s highly successful recycling practices. In the year 2010 to 2011 the University was able to divert 77 percent of their waste, a solid 12 percent increase from the previous year.

Purdue University isn’t the only school working towards better waste diversion and recycling rates. The University of Iowa in 2014 increased their recycling rate by five percent, to a total of 34 percent.

Ohio State University hopes to divert 90 percent of campus waste by the year 2025.

In 2015, Rutgers University for the ninth consecutive year took home the first place prize in the Gorilla category of the intercollegiate RecycleMania tournament. The campus was able to recycle more than 2.2 million pounds of materials, just beating out Harvard and Standford.

Most if not all of the schools in the Big Ten Conference have some sort of sustainability effort going on whether it’s ongoing waste programs or future goals.

Recycling overall

“It’s needs to be just as easy to find a garbage can as it is to find all those different kinds of recycling containers,” Suek said. “For the average person, it’s not fair to ask them “okay, there’s a garbage can there but you need to go search around the entire building to find a recycling container and throw away that specific thing.”

Berck agrees that much of the challenge in encourage people to recycling is the ease as well as making sure people on campus know their options.

“We want to give people the ability to recycle,” Berck said “If you want to, you should be able to know exactly where to go and what to put where.”

Where does this leave the University of Nebraska-Lincoln?

Americans recycle about 34 percent of the national waste, the national average of university campuses is even lower, hovering in the 20s. UNL beat this average by recycling 36 percent of materials but even this number isn’t enough.

“It could always be better,” Suek said. “We can always do better. We work really hard; Colton works really as well as the other people here, but yes, of course we can always do better.”

Google Maps graphic of schools in the Big Ten Conference from

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