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Recycling invisible at UM

Sitting on the UC Patio for lunch is routine for senior Kristin Jacobus.
And after eating lunch – a bagel and soda on this particular day – throwing her trash away in the regular garbage can has also become routine for this New Jersey native used to rigorous recycling regulations.
“In New Jersey, you are fined if you don’t recycle,” she said. “There are bins everywhere, and if you don’t sort your trash, they won’t pick it up.”
Recycling habits on the University campus are, like much of Miami’s, mediocre.
“When I first got to UM, I thought it was strange to see people throwing cans and glass in the regular trash, but after being here for four years, I’ve realized that the problem is that no one sees bins around, so they don’t want to make the extra effort to look for them,” Jacobus said.
A couple hundred feet from where she sat were two green bins recently placed in the patio for recycling.
Has the trite issue of on-campus recycling become a blind eye that the University community is now accustomed to, or a poor program in need of a shake-up?
In the eyes of Associate Director of Contract Administration Alan Weber, the 12-year-old recycling program at UM boils down to dollar bills. If the University doesn’t make enough money on a particular item, it will not be recycled.
Consider the three main recyclable items: glass, plastic and paper.
According to Weber, glass does not make the University any money so they don’t recycle it.
Easy solution.
Now, plastic has eight grades and it would be a nightmare to try to sort all of them out properly, he said. Plus, the higher the grade of plastic, the less recyclable it is, so recycling a grade eight bottle is almost pointless.
But paper has potential.
“We’ve focused our program on paper and cardboard, especially office paper, since cardboard becomes tricky because it is easily contaminated,” said Weber.
The entire recycling operation on a campus of 14,973 students and 2,511 faculty members is a two-man show, contracted from UNICCO to pick up, compress and ship the recycled paper. This team, led by Recycling Manager Irving Kohen, works on a rotating schedule to pick up approximately 196 bins, 79 boxes and 6 containers throughout campus in the library, behind the cafeteria, in each classroom building and in the residence halls.
Following the theoretical paper trail, each professor is supposed to be given a small box to throw away paper at the beginning of each academic year, according to Weber, as well as a UM Recycling Manual.
When those boxes fill up, they are then responsible for taking the paper to larger trash bins located throughout each building.
After this, the UNICCO recycling duo starts its course throughout campus, picking up the paper, depositing it into one of two University recycling trucks and taking it to a compactor.
When the paper is compacted, the university pays $120, according to Weber, to have it shipped to the waste management plant in Broward.
“Paper makes $80 per ton,” said Weber. “We pay to ship our compacted paper, but we also make money from it. In October we recycled 17 tons, but we can do up to 50. That’s a lot of money.”
In addition, each year the University makes approximately $17,000 from its recycling program.
Now if this is a money-making operation, then where is the student involvement?
“Nowhere,” said Kohen. “For university students who are supposed to be educated, this campus is a shame. They contaminate the recycle bins by throwing regular garbage in there.”
Both Kohen and Weber agreed that the UM’s recycling program runs smoothly and is becoming more and more visible throughout the University. But students unanimously disagreed.
Sophomore Lisa Hannigan, who lives is Mahoney Residential College, concurred that bins, especially in her building, are not noticeable.
“You have to hold on to your trash and seek the bins out if you want to recycle,” she said. “Students are just too lazy for that.”
In Virginia, Hannigan’s home state, there are a lot of incentives to recycle, and she thinks that creating something similar at UM might boast student awareness and participation.
“A university is about students, isn’t it?” she said. “Putting bins beside each trash can will make it very easy for us to get involved.”
Student groups like Greenpeace and Earth Alert have made efforts almost every semester, according to Weber, to implement creative plans to get people to recycle, but “they never work.”
“They’re usually complete failures because people simply don’t care,” Weber added.
While students blame the school’s program and UNICCO blames the students’ apathy, some say that the only reversible solution can come from the administration.
“There are so many opportunities to recycle here,” said Hannigan. “If the administration would spend more money on recycling and less on landscaping, then maybe students could play a more active role in this process.”

December 6, 2002

Reporters

The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami


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The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.