Students react to garbage can relocation


After removing garbage bins from classrooms, University of Iowa officials said the program has saved money, although some students are not so happy.

In August 2012, two buildings at the University of Iowa — the English-Philosophy Building and the Seamans Center — had garbage bins removed from all classrooms and placed in the hallways.

Today, there are about 25 buildings around campus with only garbage bins in the hallways in order to encourage students to recycle. Officials are working on adding five to 10 new buildings to the project a year.

“We’re gradually [adding] them as [we] look at buildings,” Eric Holthaus, UI sustainability coordinator, said. “It has been tried at many other schools in an effort to reduce trash-liner waste and to encourage people to take responsibility and utilize containers that are in the hallways.”

Holthaus said not having those additional containers in the classrooms and only having them in the hallways has helped the UI reduce trash-bag waste.

The UI has saved around $1,200 this year in garbage-bag costs for the Adler Journalism Building, EPB, and the Becker Communications Center alone.

“Not having those containers and utilizing those containers already in the hallways helped us reduce trash-liner waste by a big amount,” Holthaus said. 

The amount saved varies per building and how many garbage can and classrooms there are in each building.

When the project started, Erin Hackathorn was the building coordinator at EPB.

“I was always appalled there were so many people coming in and out of [the building] and there was very little recycling,” said Hackathorn, who is now the director of operations at the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies.  

After reaching out to UI Facilities Management to get the project started, Hackathorn said she saw a significant increase in recycling efforts by students.

Prior to the project, he said, there were only a few recycling bins in each building, and they were only for paper. Now, there are individual bins for paper, plastic, and cans. 

“It helps us not be a throw-away culture,” Holthaus said.

He said in addition to encouraging recycling among students, the initiative also aims to encourage responsibility.

While officials are happy with the program, students said they disagree with the hassle it creates.

UI freshman Matt Triplett said he often has to go out in the hallway to throw away his garbage, and he doesn’t understand why certain buildings don’t have garbage bins in the classrooms because he doesn’t believe the project encourages recycling.

“I mean, I’m still just going to throw [my garbage] in the closest thing possible,” he said.

UI freshman Sarah Kirby said she has noticed the lack of garbage bins in classrooms and believes it’s inconvenient.

“I don’t think it especially does anything to promote recycling,” she said. “If they had wanted to promote recycling, I think they should have just added more recycling bins to classrooms and other places around campus.”

Though some students don’t see the project as an advantage, officials see it as more of an opportunity to recycle.

George McCrory, the communications specialist in the UI Office of Sustainability, said the reason behind the project is to give students, staff, and faculty more of an opportunity to recycle first rather than throw something away.

“If you have visible recycling [bins], you’re going to recycle [more],” he said.

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