Improve campus recycling

The recycling program offers a great service but no enforcement mechanism.

Not many things compare to the simple pleasure of tossing an empty plastic bottle into a recycling spot designated for bottles. That is, if you believe that bottle will be recycled. Unfortunately, just because a bottle is tossed into a recycling bin does not mean it will be recycled. The problem of items collected in the Washington Avenue Bridge recycling containers not being recycled is more widespread.

Part of the problem regarding campus recycling is the lack of structure within the program. There is a campuswide recycling policy that provides a service, which includes bins and recycling pick-up, but the steps policing the process is not clear. While the policy is uniform, recycling differs from building to building.

It largely is up to the custodial staff of the various buildings to place the sorted trash in the appropriate bins. Residential halls have their own special recycling containers, but the buildings are part of the University recycling program and are among the pick-up areas. The quad system has four containers sorting the trash, office paper, newspaper and bottles into the different bins.

For an investment that cost $250,000 for 5,000 sets and 20,000 sorting containers, the University should do more to make sure things actually are being recycled. The sorted compartments work well, and students are recycling more because of the convenient location of the bins, but there needs to be a guarantee that everything tossed is recycled. There is no formal enforcement integrated into the recycling program. The management of recycling bins should be enforced to prevent recycling fraud. People who are paid to pick up the garbage should be held accountable for where the trash goes in order to make sure the trash is filtered properly. It is part of their job duty.

Given the service that we have, students really have no excuse not to recycle. It’s important to inspect and investigate what happens to the trash when students dump things in the compartments. Healthy skepticism suggests that many things aren’t being recycled. That must change.