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Kicking the Trash Can Boosts Recycling at LRB

An experiment of a different sort at the Lazare Research Building has yielded such positive results that the new protocol will soon be adopted across campus.

It’s called “centralized trash.”

Beginning last summer, trash bins were removed from offices on the third floor of the LRB, leaving only blue recycling bins in place. Centralized trash bins were installed in a couple of locations on the floor. By design, the experiment kept recycling at hand, but throwing something away required getting up and walking down the hall.

 “The idea is to make people think before they throw something away,” said Bill Tsaknopoulos, director of auxiliary services at UMass Chan who instituted the program. “The reality is that most of what gets used at your desk is recyclable, but too often we get in the habit of just throwing stuff in the trash.”

Once established on the third floor, the centralized trash experiment soon spread to the fifth and six floors of the LRB. Over the first six months of the experiment, the recycling rate jumped eight points, moving from 12 to 20 percent of waste stream volume for the whole building even though only a fraction of the offices had moved to centralized trash.

“The numbers speak for themselves,” Tsaknopoulos said. “We’re very happy with the results and we appreciate the cooperation from the LRB staff. People embraced the idea without much push-back.”

While boosting the campus recycling rate is the primary goal, the centralized trash program has other benefits, Tsaknopoulos  noted.  “By not having to empty every trash bins in every office every day, it saves on the number of plastic trash bags we use and it frees up our janitors to spend more time on cleaning, dusting and vacuuming,” he said.

The centralized trash program has now expanded to the Shaw Building, the third floor student wing and the fourth floor basic science wing of the main school building and will continue to spread across the campus in the coming weeks.

“We will go department by department, and start the process with several staff meetings to make sure we can implement it properly,” Tsaknopoulos said.

Having recycling champions in each department helps make the program work, Tsaknopoulos said. He credited UMass Chan staffers Jack Barry, Melvin Chan, Brain Duffy, Patricia Keith and Alan Lucia who helped to promote the centralized trash program early on in their departments.