Clarifying Recycling Bins and Recyclabale Materials

The following post is formatted as a Letter of Inquiry to revamp the existing recycling program present on UIC’s campus.

Project Description:

According to Tom Szaky, CEO of a recycling company, as quoted in an Atlantic article, “Typically, 50% of what you put in your recycling bin is never recycled. It’s sorted and thrown out.” Human error is a large contributing factor to this. People throw unrecyclable materials in recycling bins (Winter, 2015).

To any astute observer, this is nothing new. In fact the other day, while on UIC’s campus, I witnessed students throwing unrecyclable materials into recycling bins. I almost did that same thing by mistake. Yes, the bins are marked, but still they look similar. The University should invest in either new bins that not only are differently colored but differently shaped. Currently on campus, I have seen some bins that are like this (i.e. the see-through bins for plastic bottles). This will help students from making careless mistakes.

However, this may not always prevent unrecyclable items from being tossed into these bins. The University also needs to clarify what is recyclable and what is not. This is something that simple posters can fix. Currently, these bins do list the types of materials, yet it might be better to also list materials that should not be thrown into them. It also might be better to show them with pictures.

So in sum, I am proposing:

  1. UIC needs new unique and more identifiable recycling bins.
  2. Above these bins should be posters that clarify both recyclable and unrecyclable materials.

By doing this, the University can continue on its goal towards sustainability and becoming a Zero Waste Campus, as identified in UIC Climate Commitments: Aspirational Goals and Short-Term Action Items (UIC Office of Sustainability, 2016).


This project can be implemented rather quickly, with the exception of the new bins. The posters can be designed and printed within a week. The bins might take longer to order and to arrive, hopefully no longer than a semester.

Preliminary Project Budget:

The posters should be not cost more than $100, but can easily be made for less, depending on the materials used. Each new bin should not cost more than $20. Ideally, it would be nice to replace all recycling bins that are not clearly marked but 20 new bins would be acceptable. Making the budget for bins and posters total around $500. However, this budget can easily be negotiated.

UIC Office of Sustainability. (2016, April). UIC Climate Commitments Aspirational Goals and Short-term Action Items. Retrieved from

Winters, D. (2015, December 4). The Violent Afterlife of a Recycled Plastic Bottle. The Atlantic. Retrieved from


3 thoughts on “Clarifying Recycling Bins and Recyclabale Materials

  1. I would like to help the recycling issue. I live on campus and although they provide recycling bins in the dorms, they don’t have a proper way of getting rid of separating and keeping the recycled materials separated.


  2. I have to agree with you despite the school’s efforts to push for recycling, the signs dividing recyclable and non-recyclable garbage are similar to each other. The garbage cans should be easily distinguishable and color-coordinated to the signs.


  3. I agree with this idea because this idea would be a great idea to have start a recycling program.Also, this can make the recycle bins to be more noticeable to allow people to save the environment and reuse materials.


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