Campaign aims to make recycling easier
Facilities Management to launch pilot program after winter break
Facilities Management is looking to improve recycling on campus by launching a pilot recycling program after winter break on the third and sixth floors of Anderson.
The program will include changes such as new recycling bins that are brightly colored in order to distinguish what type of recyclable material goes in each.
Two AU service vehicles have recently begun to drive around campus with the slogan "The American dream is green," one example of the Facilities Management's sustainability campaign to promote recycling on campus.
Students submitted ideas for the slogan, and the winning submission will soon be seen on flyers and at other environmentally friendly locations around campus such as solar panels.
One of the greatest struggles in the efforts of Facilities Management has always been to get AU students to care about the recycling program on campus. According to Riley Neugebauer, environmental coordinator for Facilities Management, many students are under the impression that the recycling program is a hoax. She said the unique system AU has for transporting recyclable as well as non-recyclable waste off campus confuses people.
"I think students do want to do it," Neugebauer said.
Ashley Lorenzo, a senior in the School of Communication, said she doesn't think people respect the idea of recycling.
"I guess that most people aren't really aware of the efforts on campus," she said. "Maybe if they were more informed on the importance of recycling, they would take the few extra seconds to participate and make a difference."
Many students are confused by the apparent lack of organization in the campus recycling program.
"In the dorms, there is no clear way to recycle," said Jacqueline Dayy, a graduate student in the School of Public Affairs. "The bins aren't labeled properly, so nothing ends up getting recycled."
Students cite mislabeling of recycling and trash bins as a problem in the program. For example, recycling bins on campus are often mismatched with lids that say "trash."
"I have been known to put things in the wrong bins," said Vanessa Behrend, a senior in the Kogod School of Business. "I just don't think about it, but then I regret it."
What most students don't know is that all the waste on campus goes to a vendor in the region, Consolidated Waste Industries, where workers sort through waste by hand and separate recyclables from non-recyclables. Because of this, the AU campus has a recycling rate of 43 percent - a very high rating, Neugebauer said. The national U.S. recycling rate is currently 32 percent, according to the Environmental Protection Agency's Web site.
The program also involves expanding the types of items that can be recycled. New items that can be recycled will include ink cartridges and batteries, according to Mark Feist, a Facilities Management employee.
Facilities Management also hopes to increase signs on campus encouraging recycling. They hope the pilot program will help them get better data on how much each type of material is being recycled, a number that is difficult to calculate with the current system, according to Neugebauer.
The new pilot program should also help determine whether the campus community can decrease the amount AU pays the vendor to sort its waste by recycling better on campus, Feist said.
"It's hard for Housing and Dining because sometimes stuff like this doesn't seem as important as other things they need to tell students when they move in," Neugebauer said.
Housing and Dining Programs has recently started putting recycling pamphlets into the welcome packets students receive when they move into the dorms.
"I would like to see the RAs take on more responsibility," Neugebauer said.
She said she thinks students' recycling efforts would increase if they got a good impression of AU's recycling program as freshmen, which RAs could help with.
Neugebauer said she is concerned because the campus community cannot rely on the vendor as the sole means for recycling. The vendor used by AU is the only company of its type in the entire region, so if it were to go out of business, the community would have to rely solely on sorting recyclables itself, she said.
Chris Chan, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, said he appreciates that AU tries to give students and faculty opportunities to recycle on campus.
"I know not everyone uses the recycling bins on campus, but hopefully by having the bins around school, people will be encouraged to think more about recycling and helping the environment," he said.