Last week, the Office of Green Initiatives removed most regular unmarked trash bins from buildings around campus to add more partitioned bins in an effort to get students to properly dispose of their trash. The sectioned bins are divided into landfill, containers—glass or plastic—and paper.
David Heithaus, director of Green Initiatives, said that more of these bins were put around campus to simplify the information on what to recycle or throw away, make the information uniform across campus and get people to reconsider how they dispose of their waste.
“In the recycling industry … the strategy with collection is to make it harder to do the wrong thing than to do the right thing.” Heithaus said.
Despite the markings on the bins indicating what trash goes where, many students have not disposed of their trash in the correct bin. This has led to some of the landfill sections of the bins becoming overfilled with trash, while the other sections remained empty. “It has not worked as well as we have liked,” Heithaus said.
The maintenance staff are the ones to eventually collect the trash from these bins. In a response to this replacement of trash bins, the head of the custodial department asked Heithaus to bring unmarked bins back to some of these locations because the new ones were filled with too much trash. “When we were taking out what was in those [bins], we saw how the sorting was so bad,” Cecily Graham ’20, one of the students tasked with replacing the trash bins, said. ”People would just throw anything in, because they wouldn’t pay attention to the color of the container.”
Gary Sweeney, the manager of facility services, said that this has been a long-standing issue. “Ever since I’ve been here [7 years] we’ve had an issue having students understand what is recyclable and what’s not recyclable.”
This lack of awareness has caused a number of issues in waste disposal. Sweeney added that the more people misplace items of trash, the more things will be sent to a landfill and the less things get recycled. Maintenance workers do not sort trash or recycling; instead, they send the bags to the landfill.
Lina Beron Echavarria ’20 is also involved with replacing the trash bins. “It just makes sense at an institutional level to responsibly dispose of trash, and beyond that when it comes limiting these choices.” she said. “It’s not only the action of recycling, but the intention behind it. At least think about the life of the item after you once had it.”