Executive Summary
In late 2010 Michigan State University (MSU) launched a new recycling program using Busch Systems ‘Waste Watcher’ recycling containers. This case study will look at how the new program has affected diversion rates campus wide.  

Michigan State University

  • Founded in 1855
  • The top research institution and leader in international engagement
  • Currently has 533 buildings and over 40,000 students enrolled in the more than 200 programs
  • First recycling program was launched in 1991
  • Thousands of recycling containers have been scattered across the campus

Busch Systems International

  • North American leader of waste, compost and recycling containers for the past 25 years
  • Set the industry standard for the yearly production of new molded bins
  • Each container is 100% recyclable and North America made with a minimum of 35% recycled content


Waste Watcher

  • Space efficient, high density, attractive and functional
  • Ideal for high traffic areas
  • Holds upward of 23 gallons of recyclables or waste
  • Has custom lids, labels and openings for easy sorting
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) also uses these containers

The new containers marked the beginning of Phase II of the MSU recycling program.  In Phase I a mix of old and new containers were used in various building across the school. The mix of containers was confusing for students and looked poorly on the campus. Phase II was rolled out in late December of 2009 with Busch ‘Waste Watchers’. Staff spent four, fourteen hour days over winter break to setup the program effectively.

Phase II consisted of three thousand dark green ‘Waste Watchers’ which were placed in over 200 buildings at MSU including:

  • Classrooms
  • Research labs
  • Athletic centers
  • Administration buildings
  • Residential houses
  • Bus terminals

Previously, Deans had objected to recycling containers being in so many public spaces because they wereMichigan State University Logounattractive. The sleek appearance of the ‘Waste Watcher’ meant that more recyclables could be collected in more places at MSU.

The containers were used to form a recycling station:

  • The ‘Waste Watchers’ are designed to link together to form a sleek recycling station
  • Each container collects a different material without occupying a great deal of space
  • The station collects paper, mixed, boxboard, plastics and household metal

The recycling stations are emptied by the custodial staff who:

  • Transfers the material into larger containers
  • The recycling crew picks up and transports the containers to an on campus recycling center
  • The school then sorts it, bales it and sells it
  • This fosters sustainability and produces a profit to fund the program by

The ‘Waste Watchers’ features are designed to help the schools collection process including:

  • Removable lids and easy-grip handles which save time and resources
  • Custom lid openings
  • MSU selected a circular opening for plastics and a thin slot shaped opening for paper collection

MSU found the custom openings on the containers to work well with their program. The openings feature a simple, clean sorting system which is easy to identify and use. This diverts more materials into the correct container and reduces the resources spent sorting them.

Overall, Busch recycling containers have increased MSU’s recycling participation. They have also improved the quality of sort from the collected materials. What remains to be seen is how the program will take shape in the coming months and how this will impact future initiatives. Nevertheless, the new containers allow for more recyclables to be collected in more areas. This increases the profit made by the recycling center and reduces the schools carbon footprint.