That’s a Wrap: New Recycling Truck Completes Maiden Voyage Through Campus After P-rade

June 15, 2023

The P-rade had a new caboose this year. Following the long stream of orange and black was a new green message.

The sanitation team in Building Services debuted its new truck during the event, complete with a new wrap emphasizing the sustainability efforts happening across Princeton University. The new white truck got a green wrap with big, bold white letters reading, “Think Clean, Go Green.” The chevron pattern highlights images of trash and recycling transforming into leaves.

Flanking the new truck and sanitation crew members after the P-rade were student workers, Eco Reps, from the Office of Sustainability. These thirty students worked alongside the crew to pick up earth cups and other recyclables. All in, the sanitation crew collected 93,920 pounds of recyclables during Reunions events, diverting that material from the landfill.

​The new messaging, the new truck, and the help of the Eco Reps at events are all a part of the larger effort to improve the waste management systems at the University. One of the key goals in the Sustainability Action Plan is to strive for zero waste through behavioral and operational strategies that include reduction, reuse, and recycling.

Princeton utilizes a mixed recycling program where all acceptable recyclables — paper, plastic, metal, glass — can go into any recycling bin. The sanitation team picks up recyclables from across campus utilizing small utility carts which allows the team to maneuver into tight spots around campus. Recyclables collected in the carts are compacted at the sanitation yard before being transported off campus. The large trucks service waste and recycling dumpsters across campus and at satellite sites like Lawrence and Lakeside Apartments and properties on Alexander Road.

According to Thomas Roman, Assistant Director, Logistics in Building Services, having the new truck now allows sanitation to operate heavier recycling loads overall which reduces the number of trips off campus. The new recycling truck replaces one that was nearly 20 years old, allowing the team needed flexibility by having three fully operational trucks. While the new truck runs on diesel fuel, it is made to meet current EPA standards including the use of Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF), a chemical additive that helps reduce the amount of emission pollution generated by the truck by up to 90%.

This increased capacity coupled with the truck’s updated emissions technology, makes a step towards reducing Princeton’s carbon footprint. “The new truck has significantly improved our operations as it is more powerful and advanced compared to the older one,” says Marc Navarro, Sanitation Supervisor.

“The old truck was old and tired, just like us,” jokes Mike Wolf, a tenured Sanitation Equipment Operator. “The new truck is more functional and packs faster.”

According to the team, the new truck has improved efficiency and reliability. “It runs better, doesn’t break down, doesn’t leak fluid, and it’s fast,” said Dominic Shaner, another Equipment Operator on the team. It is also more comfortable, notes the team, easing the strain on their backs.

After two and a half years of COVID-related delays and a long procurement process, the truck arrived in May of 2023. Efforts to design the wrap started in October of 2022. Twyla Seward, Director, Building Services, saw the blank canvas on the side of the new truck as an opportunity to drive home the “go green” messaging and highlight the many sustainability efforts across campus.

“Our goal for the wrap is to send a message to our campus community and our Princeton township community on our larger push to reduce our carbon footprint,” says Roman.

Making the wrap happen took collaboration from across Facilities. Roman spearheaded the project and got buy in and input after the initial idea was suggested by Seward.

Roman worked with Dan Casey, Senior Project Planner, Office of the University Architect, to help navigate the layout and approval processes; Patricia Devine, Sustainability Architectural Engineer, Office of Capital Projects, gave input on the design; Marc Navarro, Sanitation Supervisor, Building Services, secured the specs for the layout and got input from the larger crew; Allison Viola, Scheduler Planner, Building Services, ran point on the communication with the local vendor who applied the wrap; and the Office of Sustainability helped align the message and design of the wrap with the Sustainability Action Plan. Applied Information Group was the firm Roman worked with for the final wrap design.

The new truck will be on campus daily running primarily as a recycling truck, but with the flexibility to handle trash pick-up, like during P-rade, given the operational needs. “It was great,” says Rob Everett, the Sanitation Equipment Operator who drove the truck at the P-rade. “It’s nice to get a new truck. It’s more comfortable, has working AC and is more reliable.”

With three trucks, the sanitation team can flex the use of one of them, allowing the crew to service additional areas during peak times like Reunions and move-out. The team can drive the truck to a central location and load directly into the truck, saving time and emissions by not having to drive back and forth from the compactor at the sanitation lot.

“Our team consists of 11 passionate employees who take immense pride in their work,” notes Navarro. “They show up every day, rain or shine, fully committed to their tasks. They are some of the hardest-working individuals I have ever had the pleasure of working with.”

The sanitation team handles all the recycling and waste management on campus. They’re here 365 days a year disposing of everything from medical waste to regular trash. The crew is also responsible for transporting food waste from campus to the S.C.R.A.P. Lab to be composted. They actively look for discarded items – like broken down scooters – to save from the waste stream and properly recycle.

“We feel glad that we got the new truck,” says Ricardo Maya, an Equipment Operator on the team. “We’ve been asking for a new one for many years and we finally got it.”

Next up for the sanitation department is procuring an electric truck and exploring adding electric, custom fit pick-up trucks to the fleet. The addition of pick-up trucks will eliminate the gas carts while maximizing the load tonnages. The team hopes to have the new, full-sized electric waste truck in place by 2025. The move to an electric fleet would further the University’s goal to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2046.