Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle Right at UNL

Thursday, January 27, 2022
Written by:
Morgan Hartman moving a recycling station
Morgan Hartman moving a recycling station

Not many people likely give much thought to the waste they produce or what happens to it after it leaves their possession. However, this is a very important topic that our UNL Recycling and Sustainability teams are working to elevate and integrate into the campus culture.

UNL’s Environment, Sustainability, and Resilience Master Plan, adopted in November of 2020, established the Waste Management aspirational goal to “Create a culture that strives for zero-waste and materials management through a circular economy.” There are a variety of objectives, strategies, and actions outlined in the Master Plan to help achieve this hefty goal, but one of the most important steps members of the UNL community can take to contribute is to be mindful of the waste they produce and practice responsible disposal of that waste.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle is a phrase everyone has likely heard many times before, but how much thought is given to actually putting this into practice? It can look different in scope and scale for everyone, but the important part is trying. Check out the suggestions below on ways to get started:

Reduce: Stop waste before it starts by practicing mindfulness related to waste. Consider small swaps that fit your needs and lifestyle.

· Replace multiple single use plastic baggies with reusable food storage containers in your lunchbox

· Keep a reusable mug handy to avoid using a disposable cup during a visit to your favorite coffee shop

· Pack a reusable bag to carry items when shopping on or off campus

· Carry a reusable cutlery set to avoid disposable silverware when eating lunch on the go

Reuse: Explore opportunities to purchase second-hand items when feasible. If faculty or staff, visit UNL Inventory’s weekly open house to purchase surplus items including furniture, electronics, and more for departmental use.

Recycle: Recycling is a great way to reduce waste sent to the landfill, but it is important to Recycle Right by practicing the following:

1: Know what you throw! Be aware of what you can and cannot recycle by familiarizing yourself with accepted materials.

2: Empty, clean, and dry. Make sure all items are free of leftover food, liquid, and other non-recyclable items before recycling

3: When in doubt, throw it out! If you are unsure whether an item is recyclable or not, put it in the landfill stream to avoid contaminating recyclables

Recycling starts with you and ends with you, and it is important to close the loop by purchasing items made from recycled content! Many items, including office paper and other office supplies, promotional items, apparel, and more, are being increasingly produced with recycled content. Many product suppliers offer search filters for eco-conscious products, including those made with recycled material, to make choosing these items easy.

While UNL continues to create efficiencies in its Waste Management and Recycling operation, including future expansion of the Recycling Pilot Project, it is important for community members to do their part and find ways they can contribute. Seemingly small actions have a large collective impact, and together, we can achieve our aspirational goal and reach zero waste!

To learn more about UNL’s Waste Management and Recycling operation, check out The Waste Journey Infographic. Visit for information about items accepted for recycling on campus and answers to frequently asked questions. Email with questions!

Morgan Hartman currently leads UNL's Office of Sustainability as the Acting Sustainability Coordinator. Morgan also serves as the Campus Recycling Coordinator, managing the Recycling Pilot Project operating on campus. In this role, Morgan is focused on creating structures and processes that support a comprehensive and efficient waste management system at UNL and educating the campus community on opportunities to positively contribute to this system.

Photo Cred:Craig Chandler