CNR students sort used paper to highlight U recycling practices

by Michael Krieger

While most University students were busy tailoring their weekend plans on Friday afternoon, five students in the College of Natural Resources rummaged through the school’s trash.

Their goal: “We’re trying to find out how much paper CNR uses, what they’re recycling and what it’s being used for,” said senior Vanessa Campbell.

Campbell and four others gathered in the bowels of Green Hall on the St. Paul Campus to begin the first of a three-part investigation into paper usage at the college.

For almost two hours, the group of volunteer students sorted through the mound of refuse.

“Look, people are throwing away stuff like this,” junior Ann Ollila said, waving a handful of documents with only one side of printing.

“This is a perfectly good piece of paper,” she said.

The initial results of this ad hoc study seemed to confirm suspicions among the students that two of the R’s in the “reduce, reuse, recycle” maxim have been neglected.

Melissa Wenzel, a recent University graduate, said a computer lab in the Natural Resources Administration building is likely the chief culprit of wasted paper. Since the lab allows free printing, “there seems to be a lot of abuse,” she said.

Wenzel, also the student recycling coordinator at the University’s Recycling Center, said she hopes information gleaned from their work will encourage more University departments to stop using virgin paper – paper without recycled content.

“We’re going to compile a list of departments who use virgin paper and tell them it’s cheaper to buy recycled,” Wenzel said.

The price of recycled paper nose-dived in April after paper manufacturer Domtar and University Stores negotiated a new agreement, said Lynn Hein, purchasing manager at University Stores, which buys office supplies for the entire campus.

Hein said one unit of 30 percent post-consumer waste paper now costs 10 cents less than virgin paper.

While there are no current statistics on paper usage among individual departments, Hein said approximately 60 percent of the University uses recycled paper.

University Printing Services is the school’s largest paper consumer, Hein said.

UPS director Dianne Gregory said her department uses only virgin paper and has been hesitant to switch because recycled paper has historically cost more and was “pulpy and irregular.”

“In the past, recycled paper has been hard on our equipment,” Gregory said.

Paul Gardner – executive director of the Recycling Association of Minnesota – said research has shown recycled paper does not damage printing machines.

“In federal studies, the 30 percent post-consumer recycled paper performed just as well as virgin paper,” Gardner said.

University Printing Services, which uses almost 4.5 million sheets of paper each year, recently began testing the effectiveness of recycled paper in its printing
equipment, Gregory said.

“Hopefully, we will be able to replace our virgin stock with recycled,” she said.

The group of natural resources students said they hope reduced costs will provide an incentive for the University to use more recycled paper.

“It’s available and it’s cheaper so there’s no reason why they can’t be using it,” said Campbell.

Michael Krieger welcomes comments at [email protected]