As the commencement celebrations end and all the graduates take their first steps into making a difference off campus, it’s time to recycle those streamers and get back to making a difference on campus, woo! We all know there’s not much time to sit back and relax when it comes to preparing for the next school year, so we figured we’d help with some research for those in the college and university system.

The 2014-2015 school year is going to be very exciting for recycling and sustainability. Check out the facts and stats below to get yourself loaded with sustainability knowledge.


Electronic waste is only a small portion of global waste, contributing 0.01 % to 3 % of total waste around the world, but it is growing at a rate two to three times faster than any other waste stream– the chemicals found in electronics are incredibly harmful to the environment and more people are realizing this. Luckily e-waste recovery rates are growing quickly and many recycling centers and businesses will take your e-waste and refurbish it for future use or recycle it responsibly. Want to start recycling e-waste? Read 5 Recycling Commandments You Should Start With and you’ll get exciting stats like:

“For every one million cell phones that are recycled we can recover 35,274 lbs of copper, 772 lbs of silver, 75 lbs of gold and 33 lbs of palladium.”

Taxing or Banning Plastic Bags:

Let’s look at the reasons for banning plastic bags – they don’t break down in landfills and oceans, they choke wildlife, add to our already high demand on oil and they are not easy to recycle. Yet an estimated 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are used worldwide every year! Currently in the US a ban on plastic bags exists in coastal North Carolina, Portland and in certain stores in San Francisco. Currently there is legislation to ban plastic bags waiting to be passed for the entire state of California! If this legislation passes other states might follow suit – considering Americans throw away 100 billion plastic bags a year (equivalent to dumping 12 million barrels of oil) more laws like this would definitely be welcome. Many places in Canada charge a fee per plastic bag and offer cloth alternatives.

Recycled and Compostable Packaging:

Almost everything we buy comes in some sort of packaging, and many times it can’t be recycled and ends up in the trash. Many companies are realizing how wasteful one time use packaging can be and using recycled material to make up their product packaging. Some companies have even created packaging made out of agricultural waste and mushrooms, and the best part is it’s grown and not manufactured!

Recycling Beer Bottles & Beer Cans:

Now we’re not implying that colleges & universities need this information, but if they did…we’ve got a great article on which container is better for the environment. And did you know? In Canada, The Beer Store chain has recycled over 1 billion containers over 100ml! The recycling activities of their two deposit programs resulted in 174,292 tons of avoided green house gas emissions. That’s about the same as removing 33,325 cars from the road each year! Simply making everyone aware of the positive impact recycling these containers can have is a sure way to immediately increase recycling rates in your area.

Some Hard Facts

In the US:

  • 82 million tons composted or recycled for recovery rate of 33.8 %
  • 29 million tons of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) combusted for energy recovery
  • 74 % of office-type paper recovered
  • 60 % of yard trimmings recovered
  • 34.5 % of metals recycled
  • 7 million tons of metals recycled reduced greenhouse gas emissions at equivalent of removing 5 million cars from road for one year
  • Approximately 9,000 community curbside recycling programs exist in United States, increase over reported 2002 figure of 8,875
  • Approximately 3,000 community composting programs exist

In Canada

  • Overall diversion rate – 32%
  • Total amount of materials disposed of – 25 million
  • Amount disposed of: per capita – 729 kg
  • Amount disposed of: residential – 9.3 million tonnes (37%)
  • Amount disposed of: non-residential – 15.6 million tonnes (63%)
  • Amount of materials diverted – 8.1 million tonnes 
  • Paper – 40%
  • Organics – 27%
  • Metals – 15%

Schools That Have Recycling Down Pat

In the US

In Canada

RecycleMania – A little friendly competition that helps the environment!

Signing your school up to take part in RecycleMania is a great way to help the environment while taking part in a little friendly competition. Over an 8 week period each spring, colleges and universities across the United States and Canada participate in RecycleMania as a way for their recycling programs to promote waste reduction activities throughout their campuses. Each school that takes part reports the amount of trash and recycling they collect each week and are ranked based on how much is recycled per capita. The results of each week are used for each school to rally their campus to recycle more each week and try to beat other schools with the highest percentage of total waste diverted, and the least amount of combined trash and recycling. Sign up for RecycleMania to get some national recognition for your school while assisting in a great cause!

Did You Know?….

Pretty much every school in Canada and the US encourages recycling of some kind.

Want to be a part of greening your campus? Check to see if your school has an Office of Sustainability or see where Facilities Management is located. Many schools have groups that take care of green initiatives and are always looking for volunteers.