By Daniel Schemer
One only needs to stroll into any building on campus to realize how far recycling has come over the last year. Walk into any office or hallway and you'll see numerous receptacles, marked for specific contents, scattered along your chosen path. This symbolic display alone has surpassed previous expectations, signifying the UMass Dartmouth administration is sending a message to the campus community that they mean business.
The UMass Dartmouth Recycling Office has implemented new actions and guidelines that will make recycling not only easier for the campus community, but also more lucrative in scale. Totes and bins have been distributed all over campus designated for mixed paper and paper products, bottles and cans, and even space specified for corrugated cardboard. This makes it all the more convenient for students who won't have to go searching for receptacles anymore. "We've totally revamped what we're doing for all academic and support buildings, [going] from a human-based program with limited capabilities to a full-blown recycling effort," said Dave Ferguson, Director of Facilities..
The Greater New Bedford Refuse District and the Town of Dartmouth helped fund the purchasing of an estimated $20,000 worth of convenience-sized recycling bins. During the week, custodial staff will transfer all recyclable contents from the buildings to giant dumpsters located in parking lot #8. Once filled, the Town of Dartmouth will remove them from campus and keep the revenues from all materials to cover their costs.
Campus dining services has also been incorporated into the new program. Besides having their own recycling bins and totes, there's now a policy of saving up all their pre-consumed food preparation waste as fertilizer compost for local farms.
"The recycling program needed a lot of help when I came. The students were doing a good job with limited resources, but there was no institutionalized program," said Marc Fournier, who was an independent consultant for the UMass Dartmouth Sustainability Initiative. An employee for the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDep), Mr. Fournier has worked for years, on a non-profit level, helping businesses convert to recycling. He was important in building a partnership between the Greater New Bedford Refuse District and the Town of Dartmouth. "I helped the administration convert to a system where custodial staff hauls away trash three days a week instead of five, and haul away recycling two days a week." Guidelines for recycling have been posted all over campus and are also available on the UMD website.
Some other exciting improvements have been occurring in the residential areas. Starting last September, Housing, Facilities, Operations, and Services (HFOS) instituted a pilot program in four Residence Halls for single-stream recycling. The premise of throwing everything recyclable into one bin was designed to make things as simple as possible. "My program makes life easier for the students...No sorting, no three different bags or containers to separate them. We've tried to make it easier for the students," said Eric Lyonnais, Assistant Director of Housing/Facilities.
The program was a complete success; around 17 tons was yielded from these four dorms during the school year. As a result, this Fall semester will see the single-stream program integrated into all 14 Residence Halls, with estimates reaching 70 tons of recyclables that would otherwise be diverted to landfills. Every dorm room will be supplied with a blue tote bag that can be emptied into 96-gallon bins located in the Halls. Cedar Dell areas will also be supplied with giant dumpsters for single-stream recycling, which will make it more convenient when residents go to take out the trash. "The only obstacle we foresee is getting the word out. It's about communication, advertising, and changing the way students see recycling. Instead of just throwing it away, go the extra mile," said Mr. Lyonnais. There will be strict guidelines and close monitoring of all giant bins in order to avoid contamination by contents that shouldn't be included (e.g. pizza boxes, napkins, styrofoam, paper plates, food, etc.)
The differences between the campus and housing recycling programs are noticeable. Both sides concur that, at this stage, it's about what is most beneficial to the UMass Dartmouth community.
"Housing is running their own program; they felt it would be easier to get by with students having one bag to deal with versus multiple bags to contend with," explained Dave Ferguson.
"The amount of trash going to the landfill is exorbitant. So being able to help with that and bring awareness to students is important...," said Robin Brow, Operations Manager for HFOS, in regards to the significance of sustainability.
The 2008-2009 school year will also mark the first time UMass Dartmouth will be participating in RecycleMania. The nationwide contest amongst various colleges and universities promotes waste reduction by getting students, over a 10-week period, to collect as much recyclable material as possible. With each week's reports and rankings, as well as the different categories within the contest, schools unite their communities for an important cause. "The competition brings it out between people. Hopefully, the competition will raise more student awareness to increase the amount of recyclables we're able to collect in the Residence Halls," said Ms. Brow, who will be in charge of promotion for RecycleMania. It is still being determined what kinds of rewards will be offered to winning Residence Halls.
The competition will run from Jan. 18 - March 28, 2009. The 2008 run produced 58.6 million pounds nationwide. For more information, visit www.recyclemaniacs.org.