In 2009, students from the IDEAS chapter at UCF were facing what seemed like an impossible challenge to accomplish: how can we begin recycling in our off-campus dorms, and help the university reach their Climate Action goals of diverting 75% of our waste stream via recycling and composting by 2050??
Today, UCF is the 2nd largest university in the country, with over 60,000 undergraduate students. You can just imagine the amount of waste being tossed in the garbage cans everyday, not to mention the recyclcales that could be salvaged and repurposed.
UCF students, Carolyn Pollifrone and Wyatt Champion, were passionate about solving this challenge and approached IDEAS to team up on this effort. They created RACOON Recycling, which stands for ‘Recycling Access & Collection for Off-campus Organizations and Networks’ (…pretty sweet acronym, don’t you think?)
To begin, we searched Craigslist for potential bins, and stumbled on 25 Heinz ketchup bins that were each 50 gallons. With a little fundraising, we purchased the bins, painted them green, and slapped a RACOON + IDEAS logo on them.
Then, we worked with UCF Recycling department and the Off-campus housing complex administration to pilot an off-campus recycling program, placing the bins in strategic areas around the complex, and promising to collect all the recyclables in the bins twice (2x) per week for a full semester.
Each Wednesday and Sunday, IDEAS leaders would pack-in to a few vehicles and go collect these recyclables, resembling raccoons foraging through trash to find the next meal. After we packed out cars and trucks with the bags of recyclables, we delivered the goods to our on-campus UCF Recycling plant where we were able to weigh our findings, record our results, and separate the products.
IDEAS helped lead this effort for over 1 year, collecting over 30 TONS of recyclables throughout the pilot, diverting valuable products that would have otherwise ended up in the landfill! Because of our efforts, UCF decided that there was enough demand for recycling to incorporate the dorms in their existing routes, and alleviate our need to continue our efforts.
RACOON is a model that we encourage other chapters to test out, and work with your schools to reach out waste diversion and recycling goals.
Reach out to IDEAS, and we can help you through the process of making this idea into a solution for your chapter!
– Chris Castro