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How Does it Work?: Recycling at Drexel

March 20, 2023

"How Does it Work? Recycling at Drexel" written next to a graphic of a person putting something in a recycling bin.

This article was written by Director of Grounds Scott Dunham as part of DrexelNEWS’ recurring “How Does It Work?” feature. This series spotlights operational or administrative departments, teams or processes you might not know about, but who keep the Drexel cogs moving each and every day!  

With spring cleaning and Earth Day right around the corner, you might be thinking about how recycling works on campus (and in general). What are some best practices for recycling? What do you do if you're not sure what/where to recycle? Are there any recycling events coming up? (Spoiler alert: Campus Race to Zero Waste is happening right now!)

Read on for an interview with Director of Grounds Scott Dunham, from the Real Estate and Facilities team, in which he breaks down details about recycling at Drexel.

Q: Explain the purpose of your unit. What is Real Estate and Facilities’ role in recycling on campus?

A: We facilitate the collection and removal of recyclable items from all campuses, both academic and residential. When Custodial collects recycling from the buildings, they make a quick decision as to whether we can accept it or not. Unfortunately, even a small amount of contamination (food and liquids) can ruin an otherwise good bag or can of recycling, and if that is the case, it is put out with the trash. If it is "clean," then recycling is placed in large 95-gallon toters (containers) at each building or loading dock, and then Transportation picks up the toters and brings them to a single dumpster for collection. When the dumpster is full, it is brought to a material recycling facility (or MRF) by Drexel’s waste-and-recycle hauler, Republic Services. Grounds workers perform a similar step to Custodial, but with the recycle cans outside of buildings.

An overturned recycling bin with newspapers, papers and cleaned out plastic items.
A close-up view of what clean recycling, with no contamination, looks like.

Q: Why do you think the Drexel community needs to know how recycling works here?

A: Our No. 1 complaint is that recycling is being thrown out with the waste by Custodial, but because of the reasons stated above (contamination), we don’t have a choice. The saying is, “When in doubt, throw it out,” and again, it takes very little to ruin an otherwise good collection of recyclables. The more people know what “good” recycling needs to look like, the better. In general, a quick rinse is all we need to remove any leftover food or liquids, and as always, consider eliminating as much waste as possible by bringing and utilizing reusable containers and water bottles.

Q: Where are all the recycling locations on campus?

A: Recycling containers can be found throughout Drexel's campuses in building lobbies, hallways, offices and classrooms, as well as outdoor spaces such as Perelman Plaza. Make sure the container is labeled for recycling. The Real Estate and Facilities website has more information on where to find receptacles in campus housing and for specialty items like batteries, as well as resources to help you understand what and how to recycle.

Q: What’s one thing you want the community to know about your unit/process?

A: The No. 1 thing is to reduce the amount of products you need to recycle, especially plastics, by reusing containers and using more eco-friendly materials. If you do have items to recycle, they should be rinsed and somewhat clean. It is also important to reiterate that we have a single-stream recycle process, which means everything can be recycled together. There are several generations of recycling containers mixed throughout campus, but the message is the same: No need to separate different types of recyclables. Keep them clean, and when in doubt, throw it out.

A filled blue recycling bin next to a filled trash can.
Be sure to keep your trash and recycling separate — and when in doubt, throw it out!

Q: Is there someone I can contact with questions about recycling?

A: Questions, comments and concerns can be sent to (which I monitor). 

Q: Any examples of recycling events or happenings going on right now?

A: We are in the midst of Campus Race to Zero Waste, an annual friendly competition for college and university recycling programs to promote waste reduction activities to their campus communities. And we’re hosting recycling collection events from March 21–23 on all three Philadelphia campuses (Center City, Queen Lane and University City) where you can bring us electronics, computer equipment, old and used-up toner and ink cartridges, and batteries of all kinds to recycle. You can visit the Campus Race to Zero Waste webpage for all those details.

On an ongoing basis, my colleagues in Real Estate and Facilities and I do whatever we can to accommodate requests for recycling, facilitate events like the collection events coming up and, in general, make sure our employees are an active part of the University’s recycling efforts.