Frequently Asked Questions

Have a question about waste? Email us at sustainability@vassar.edu and we’ll be in touch + add it to the list.

The switch from traditional plastic to-go containers to bioplastics and other forms of “compostable” containers actually—and counterintuitively—negatively impacted Vassar’s waste diversion rate and led to more trash being sent to the landfill. This is both due to bioplastics not being accepted by our area composting providers and other compostable products having a high degree of contamination (e.g. sauce packets remaining inside closed containers).

Independent studies have also shown that compostable packaging, even when it is ultimately composted, still has a worse overall impact on the environment than other options (c.f. this report from the State of Oregon Department of Environmental Quality).

In lieu of continuing to use these products, the College is coupling its use of other, lower-impact plastics with efforts to expand our reusable to-go program and decrease waste in other ways.

A guide to the most common trash, recyclable, and compostable materials is available here.

All waste and recycling is brought to the same off-site Waste Transfer Station for sorting. This secondary sorting ensures that non-recyclable material doesn’t contaminate much larger batches of recyclables, while also in some cases allowing for recyclables accidentally sorted into a landfill bin to be recycled. Your support in keeping our recycling bins clean and uncontaminated still matters, and greatly increases Vassar’s total recycling tonnage.

Several of the dining areas have compost receptacles; however, due to major contamination issues the only front-of-house composting location that is consistently collected and able to be diverted is at Gordon Commons. A smaller composting program pilot is also in operation at Ferry House.

Dutchess County collects #1–#7 plastics. However, please make sure whatever you place in a recycling bin is clean, and avoid film plastics or plastic bags which are not recyclable through the single-stream bins.

Many single-use to-go containers at Vassar are recyclable, but check the container for a recycling symbol to make sure. Please also make sure the container is either rinsed out or at least wiped so food residue doesn’t contaminate the rest of the container. When in doubt, throw it out.

While the apparent size of individual bins may have changed in different locations as part of our work to standardize all of them, the total capacity of the combined stations is as much or larger. Facilities Operations and the Office of Sustainability have been collaborating to identify problem areas and increase bin count or staffing rotation where needed.