Recently, it has been reported that custodians have been throwing the recycling away along with normal garbage.
In the 2013-2014 school year, UM’s recycling program took in 3,045 pounds of aluminium, 18,000 pounds of plastic and 65,000 pounds of paper. In each building on campus, there is at least one recycle bin for all three materials. Each day, Physical Plant employees come and take the contents of the bin bags away to be recycled.
Recently it’s been noted that some residence halls have been throwing the recyclable materials out with regular trash. Landon Walls, recycling coordinator and custodial supervisor, was unaware of the neglect. The recycling program has been in place since before he began working for the university in 2010. According to Walls, waste management used to take everything and dump it into one large dumpster until it was removed in September 2010. Currently, all the university’s recyclable material goes to a plant in Birmingham.
The amount of recyclable material that is being thrown away could be a result of custodial neglect, but students can also be held accountable. Each recycling bin has the name of the material that’s supposed to go inside of it clearly labeled on its side. When students use the recycle bins like regular trash cans, the recyclable material gets mixed in with the trash, thus contaminating it. According to John Denson, the director of UM Housing and Residence Life, this makes it difficult for the cleaning staff to dispose of recycled items appropriately.
One thing that always finds its way into the recycle bins is pizza boxes. Cardboard is made from organic matter so the boxes can be recycled, but since the grease and whatever leftovers from the pizza are still inside, it has to be thrown away as waste.
“There are dumpsters conveniently located outside each residence hall,” Denson said. “Residents are reminded to properly dispose of their personal trash in the dumpster and not in the hallways, stairwells, kitchens and recycling bins.”
“I know that with further education the program would just absolutely blow up,” Walls said. “And the truth of the matter is that it would be a good problem to have, but we don’t have the manpower to just sort through and handle it all.”
To help make the recycling process flow smoother and to avoid any future contamination of recyclable materials, students should simply discard materials into the right bin and keep actual pieces of trash out of them.