University ill-equipped to meet recycling demands

At a time when being green is at the forefront of popular culture, the University of Windsor appears to be falling short in its recycling initiatives on campus.

Rumors are flying about what really happens to the glass, paper and plastic that students and teachers toss into specific containers around campus. Many speculate that it simply gets thrown out along with the rest of the trash, and more often than not, this seems to be the case.

James Kehoe, vice-president of CUPE Local 1001, which encompasses maintenance staff, blames the problem on the fact that students, professors, and staff often throw the wrong materials into the wrong bins. Kehoe explained that because of lack of staff, custodians no longer have the man-power to sort the trash.

“Cost is a huge factor,” Kehoe said. “Both in people and time.”

John Esposito, president of the student group Young Greens, believes that students are not entirely to blame for the recycling problems. Esposito noticed how recycling around campus often takes more of an effort, and is more confusing than people think it is worth.

“Look at the outdoor bins,” he explained. “If you wanted to recycle the Tim Horton’s cups under paper waste or even litter for that matter, you would have to flatten out the cup to allow it to fit.”

These problems have not gone unnoticed by University administration. John Regier, manager of Housekeeping and Grounds Services, explained the challenges of making an entire university campus recycle friendly.

“Recycling has dramatically improved on campus over the last few years,” he said. “Still, there’s plenty of room for improvement, and plenty of room for student involvement.”

Regier said that recycling on campus faces three major challenges: time, money, and storage.

While the university has been working to place new and improved waste stations across campus, Regier pointed out that these stations are not cheap. Over $150,000 was spent on 130 new indoor stations over the past two years.

Esposito’s other main criticism concerned the unlabeled bins in Erie hall. “It’s kind of hard to recycle properly when where the recyclables go is not the student or staff’s choice,” he explained.

Regier responded by explaining that the plan is to outfit each building properly before moving onto the next one. Many buildings pre-date recycling he said, so they would like to make sure each building is properly equipped to handle the recycle load permanently.

The bins like those in Erie Hall are a cheap but temporary solution, until higher-grade stations can be bought to replace them. Young Greens hope to start an awareness campaign to let students know that if recycling is not sorted correctly, it will be thrown out. “We hope this would encourage them to dispose of their recyclables correctly,” Esposito commented.

Still, Regier wants to wait until at least 50 per cent of the classrooms are equipped before they start any advertising.

However, he enthusiastically encouraged any student involvement in lending a hand to promote recycling. What recycling really comes down to is individual choice.

Kehoe explained that just as there are students willing to go that extra mile to find the proper waste container, there are those on staff willing to do the same to make sure the University stays green.

It is obvious then that the commitment to recycle lies in the hands of everyone: the management that provides the containers, the students and staff who must look before they toss, and the custodial staff to ensure those green initiatives are not wasted.

Students are asked to keep a few things in mind, such as making sure garbage does not make its way into the recycling bins, to carry waste if the proper facilities are not immediately available, and to participate in campus initiatives including the 10 cent Lug-a-Mug discount offered by Food Services to students who bring their own mugs.

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