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St. Olaf introduces single-stream recycling

By Becca Heistad '09
November 12, 2008

In line with its mission to promote sustainable living, St. Olaf College recently switched its recycling system to an all-in-one or "single-stream" model, which allows the campus to recycle with more convenience.

Single-stream recycling relaxes the sorting requirements of recyclable materials by allowing users to combine them in St. Olaf's single-stream recycling bins, located in all buildings on campus.

St. Olaf Assistant Vice President for Facilities Pete Sandberg is excited about the move to the single-stream model, saying that it has already virtually eliminated trash at his home. "We had hoped to have it under way for the start of the school year, but had too much going on with the Regents Hall work," Sandberg says. "I have always wanted to get to this point because I believe it will greatly reduce the amount of material that gets put in the landfill."

With the single-stream model, St. Olaf students, faculty and staff can now recyle newspapers, magazines, mail, glass and plastic bottles, cardboard (including the ubiquitous pizza boxes) and more in the same bins.

St. Olaf's decision to switch to the new model will result in the recovery of up to 30 percent more recyclable materials. The convenience of single-stream recycling greatly increases both participation and recovery rates, which in turn will extend the life of regional landfills.

Single-stream recycling also cuts down on specialized recycling collection vehicles and allows for greater material compaction. Over time this reduces the energy required during the collection of the material through greater payloads and a "one route, one truck" collection methodology.

The new initiative fits well into the college's sustainability efforts that include composting 100 percent of food waste, maintaining more than 150 acres of reconstructed prairie and wetland and drawing power from an on-campus utility-grade wind turbine. And the newly constructed Regents Hall is on track for LEED Platinum certification -- the highest rating available from the U.S. Green Building Council.

Contact Kari VanDerVeen at 507-786-3970 or