New reverse vending machine encourages sustainability

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Photo by Kwasi Obeng-Dankwa

The reverse vending machine only accepts aluminum cans and plastic bottles.

In August, Lafayette College installed an Atlas Reverse Vending Machine in the Farinon Student Center, which was brought in with the help of the Lafayette Office of Sustainability, Bon Appetit and Coca-Cola. Not only is it new to Lafayette’s ever-growing campus, but the reverse vending machine is also the first of its kind in Pennsylvania. 

The machine crushes recyclables in order to create more storage space, which ultimately allows it to hold up to 1000 items. It also exclusively takes aluminum cans and plastic bottles, which reminds students of what should and should not be recycled. 

“The machine has sensor technology, which allows it to identify recyclables as they enter through the conveyor belt opening,” Christopher Brown, manager of Bon Appetit wrote in an email. “It also allows for promotions and challenges through an interactive screen display. Students can compete for the highest recycling rates or win prizes for their participation.” 

Many students have spoken highly of the machine, which is so popular that it often fills up.  

“[My] friends have tried to use the machine but it’s often full and has to be reset,” Ellie Pisacane ‘25 said. 

The reverse vending machine has been praised among students involved with sustainability and climate activism. This project is just one of the many steps Lafayette has taken in order to meet its carbon neutrality goal by 2035. 

“[We are] working closely with the College’s sustainability department on waste reduction … while following our Bon Appetit standards and principles,” Brown wrote. 

Sustainability Director Samantha Smith said that she is looking forward to “incorporating challenges and competitions to further increase usage of the machine and understanding of recycling on campus.” 

These creative ideas implemented by the Office of Sustainability were preceded by confusion over recycling on campus. 

“Many of my roommates and I wouldn’t know where the appropriate places to recycle were,” Pisacane said. “Our dorms didn’t really promote recycling on a regular basis and this new feature to campus will definitely educate students a lot more.”

On top of raising awareness for recycling, the new machine has been referred to as a stepping stone to help improve climate activism on a local level.

“It’s important to partake in renewable energy to improve the world and environment, and expanding things like this on campus certainly helps. Machines like this on campus could be eventually used throughout Easton,” Chris Allen ‘26 said. “[The machine] will help lower emissions in our community and every step in combating climate change matters on a local level. A healthier world and relying on knowledge of climate science is the first step to a more sustainable community.”