For the College, it’s not always easy being green

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April 21, 2009

3:38 AM

While administrators at the College of William and Mary have made efforts to increase the College’s environmental sustainability in recent years, introducing green fees and switching to recycled paper, recycling bins are still not available throughout campus.

Blue recycling bins are standard fixtures in every dorm room on the campus, but they are still rare in academic and administrative buildings.

Vice President of Administration Anna Martin said cost is the reason for the lack of recycling bins.
“Recycling is not self-sustaining,” Martin said in an e-mail. “[It] is a cost to the College. The College currently spends $50,000 annually [on recycling programs].”

Martin said the recycling program is currently supplied by $16,000 from Student Assembly funds.
Student Environmental Action Coalition member Michael Riccard ’12 said the cost limitations of recycling programs is unfortunate, but understandable.

“The way our current recycling system works, it actually costs us more money when we increase recycling,” Riccard said in an e-mail. “This is because, unlike our trash, which is collected based on an overall contractual fee that we pay, the cost of recycling is on a bin-by- bin basis … I would like to see the school have recycling bins in every office, [but] in light of the current economic situation and an unsustainable recycling program, I understand the school’s unwillingness to increase the amount of recycling on campus.”

The cost of recycling has led the College to adopt of a voluntary recycling program for administrative and academic buildings. In these buildings, staff or student groups collect materials to be recycled.

“Occupant or student-led groups who recycle, deposit recycled materials in the outdoor recycling containers located around the campus,” Martin said. “Those containers are furnished by the College on request, and as the budget permits.”

The College administration encourages students, faculty and staff to participate in this limited recycling program, the voluntary program and differing capabilities of departments on campus have prevented the institution from forming a cohesive, campus-wide policy.

“Recycling is done on a voluntary basis,” Martin said. “Resident students, faculty and staff may choose to participate by using the blue recycling containers located around campus. Facilities Management recycles batteries, tires, fluorescent lights, metal, chemicals and other operations. Aramark, the College’s food service provider, also recycles.”

Riccard said that the College would benefit from a more centralized policy and criticized the College’s reliance on volunteer recycling.

“I believe that recycling should be its own department here on campus as it is at other schools, including [the University of Virginia],” Riccard said. “The problem with volunteer participation is that it ebbs and flows, so there are times when the bins can go weeks without
being emptied since the system lacks accountability.”

According to Martin, the College must consider cost and sustainability before changing the current recycling program.

“There are two questions related to a viable recycling program,” Martin said. “The first is can it be cost neutral. If it can, then the program should be expanded. The second is, if not, is the material being sent to recyclers really being recycled or does it eventually end up in the waste stream because there is no market for the recycled material? The answer to the second question would inform a decision to expand the recycling program even at a greater cost.”

Until the program is expanded, however, Riccard said campus groups must work with the administration to create the greatest environmental benefit within the existing policies.

“[Currently], various faculty and staff members…are all trying to do the right thing for the environment, but it isn’t really efficient since it’s a bunch of individual campaigns,” Riccard said. “I believe we can work with the current system to make it much more effective if the school actually addressed who is accountable for recycling, whether it be SEAC, the [Committee on Sustainability] or someone else. That way we can all work together towards a common goal.”

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