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Northern Illinois University Recycling History

History  Truck
Recycling is a Student-Led Initiative!

Recycling at Northern Illinois University began in the 1970s as a volunteer effort from a handful of students who walked the DeKalb city streets picking up recyclables from the curbside bins of private residences. In the mid-1980s the students were given a fenced-in enclosure near the university from which to base their recycling operations. The program also received support from the Student Association and in 1986, the Student Association Recycling Program (SARP) moved its operations into an unused barn (named the Tom Kennedy Recycling Center) in 1992. From the Tom Kennedy Recycling Center, the SARP serviced the recycling needs of the entire university, including all of its academic, administrative, and residence buildings.

The Student Association Recycling Program functioned as the sole source of recycling education, pick-up, and processing of the materials. It also was NIU's environmental awareness center. Programs, speakers, and celebrations of Earth Day were organized through SARP.

In the 1990s, recycling was not profitable, and Student Association began to incur a deficit.  The Student Association discussed options for a new recycling plan with the University administration and the Physical Plant. It was decided that a pilot recycling program should be implemented to determine the best way to serve the students, faculty, and staff. SARP would collect aluminum cans, until the closing of the Tom Kennedy Recycling center, to generate revenues to reduce the program debt.

The current recycling program is run by Building Servies and Recycling Services.  They have started a new pilot program to switch from several targeted material containers to one commingled stream.  The switch to a single-stream recycling program will hopefully encourage more participation in our recycling program.   Campus Recycling encourages feedback and involvement from students, staff, and faculty at Northern Illinois University.