Published: Dec. 12, 2023

The week before classes start is always a busy and exciting time for campus, over 7000 students move into the residence hall during this time. This year the Zero Waste program provided recycling services for over a dozen welcome events, recycled 20 tons of cardboard and film plastic, and sponsored an on-campus reuse sale.

students sorting wasteEvery year when students move in on campus over a dozen staff and volunteers from the Environmental Center work to make sure as much of their incidental waste, including cardboard boxes and plastic grocery bags, is recycled. Meanwhile, staff from Facilities Management run extra shifts to keep up with overflowing cardboard recycling dumpsters and recycling carts. During move in week facilities crews will sometimes dump cardboard dumpsters at some residence halls as many as 7 times during a 12 hour day. This year volunteers and staff worked through heat advisories, flood watches, and broken trucks to divert 40,000 pounds of cardboard from the landfill in five days. This is over twice as much as we recycled in 2019. 

40,000 lbs of cardboard wasteThe mountains of cardboard boxes are taken to the Boulder County Recycling Center where they are bailed and sent to paper mills to be recycled back into new boxes. CU earns recycling rebates when waste is cleanly sorted by staff and volunteers. These efforts help to offset the costs of running the Zero Waste program at CU Boulder. When disposing of waste, use the proper bin. If you are unsure, check out the Eco-Cycle A-Z guide. “Recycling and composting properly is the easiest way for Buffs to get involved in climate action on campus. When the 35,000 members of the campus community do their part every day, it makes a big difference.” Angie Gilbert, E-Center Recycling Program Manager.

Prioritizing reuse and waste reduction holds greater potential for advancing towards a circular economy and achieving zero waste goals than recycling alone. This year the Environmental Center partnered with Resource Central to pilot a sale of reused home good items from last semester’s move out donation drive. CU students were able to pick up gently used storage units, mirrors, chairs and other furniture items for an average price of $4, without even having to leave campus. Students interested in furnishing their own living spaces sustainability are encouraged to check out a local thrift store or visit Resource Central.