In keeping with the spirit of Villanovans igniting change, Villanova University Recycling began with a small spark of change. It has since ignited into a robust program, fueled by the entire campus community’s energy. While the program has grown from its humble beginnings in 1990, this change has been a gradual burn. At its inception, the program recycled three different materials with a recycling rate of under 10 percent. Today the program recycles more than 20 different materials at a recycling rate of nearly 54 percent. Villanovans now recycle more than five times as much material as they did when the program first started.
In 1990, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania passed PA Act 101, a law mandating that institutions like Villanova must recycle. Initially, the program recycled white office paper, corrugated cardboard, and aluminum cans. In the past 30 years, many initiatives have helped expand VU's recycling programs.
In 1995, Villanova recognized that a successful expansion of the recycling program would require guided vision and branding to promote itself throughout the campus community. In support of this initiative, a full time Recycling Coordinator was hired and a recycling logo was created.
In 2019, as recycling markets changed because of new international policies, a Manager of Waste & Recyling position replaced the previous Recycling Coordinator position, in order to guide Villanova's waste program towards more of a holistic waste reduction/diversion or zero waste program.
In 2022, a student internship, or Student Recycling Coordinator position was created to help Villanova achieve its waste diversion goals. This internship not only empowers students to ignite change, but it also provides real, hands-on and quantifiable experience that can make students more attractive to post-graduation job placement. This type of experience isn't always taught in a classroom, and it can be quite rewarding.
Villanova University is also it's own hauler for much of our waste and recycling materials. We have a fleet of collections vehicles, operated by VU employees. This gives us an edge when it comes to controlling the efficiency and performance of our programs, as well as better control over data capture and safety.
As community awareness about recycling has grown over the years, so has the program’s momentum. Each new product that was added to the recycling stream served as a milestone for the program’s evolution. Villanova now recycles glass, plastics, mixed paper, mixed metals, yard waste, food waste, electronic waste, chemical waste, construction waste, and automotive waste. We are continuously evaluating our recycling program and looking for ways to expand upon the list of recyclable items, however, recycling is never as good as reducing waste in general. Always refuse, reduce, or reuse before even thinking about recycling.
Currently, worldwide recycling programs are in jeopardy. Foreign policy and recycling markets have substantially changed in just the past few years, driving the cost of recycling programs to extreme highs. Just a few short years ago, there was a positive monetary value for materials mined through recycling programs. Credits received through the recycling of such material would financially support and sustain recycling programs. Now, it costs more to recycle an item than it does to just throw it in the trash. This market flip has caused some municipalities and organizations to make changes to their recycling programs, or even suspend them entirely. Add to that the impacts of a recent global pandemic, ever increasing consumerism, e-commerce, and an abundance of single-use disposable items, and we are in a position where it is more important than ever to come together as a community to improve our waste reduction and diversion efforts. At Villanova University, we continue to support recycling despite the rising cost, but we need your help to keep our programs healthy.
Familiarizing yourself with proper recycling procedures on campus, minimizing contamination in recycling bins, and working to reduce your waste will help us keep recycling programs available for years to come. It will also help protect our planet and natural resources.
As Villanova University Waste & Recycling looks ahead to the future and establishes new goals, we will always recognize our humble beginnings, learn from the successes of the past three decades, and harness the positive energy burning throughout the Villanova community that was initiated by the first small spark of change.