posted 2011-02-09 13:30:11

Hunter College Recycling - N for Needs Improvement

Recycling bins in the West Building (The Envoy/Hubert Szumski)
Recycling bins in the West Building (The Envoy/Hubert Szumski)
Hunter College Recycling

N for Needs Improvement

Sahara Shrestha

Contributing Writer

How effective is Hunter’s recycling? According to a formal recycling survey conducted by a student group on campus, there’s room for improvement.

As a result of the survey, “the Sustainability Council secured some initial funding for a handful of … bunched bins to be placed where it most seemed to make sense—high traffic areas,” said Timothy Wilson, Operations Coordinator and staff representative of the Hunter Sustainability Council— part of an umbrella organization made of students, faculty and staff, helping coordinate sustainability in CUNY institutions.

The council requested they gain a better insight into the problem of “misplaced recyclables” and “contamination of recycling bins with regular garbage”—a persistent problem apparently created by the lack of recycling bins around campus.  Wilson says the council is aware of this issue and is currently trying “to make it as convenient as possible for the campus community to recycle.”

"We believe consistency is the key to reducing confusion and are looking to replace all of the mismatched, aged recycling bins with the bunched bins," said Wilson.

More bunched bins have recently been added to the second and sixteenth floors of Hunter West, and third floor of Hunter East. The one near Chanin Lab on the second floor, west, has perfectly labeled compartments for “trash,” “metal,” “paper,” and “plastic/glass.”

The student group will soon submit results with solution-proposals to the council.

In spite of the survey’s findings, Peter Plevritis, administrative superintendent of the facilities management and planning office, attests to Hunter’s belief in recycling. He says the school separates waste from recyclable trash by creating distinct bins for each.

“They’ve been there forever—for ages,” he said.

“Never seen a bin for plastic in school,” said Hunter student Nathan B. A single glass/cans bin stood near the vending machines and regular bins outside hall entrances, and random corners of the floor.

“Most times you’re rushing to class so you dump your bottle in the closest one,” explained Hunter student Jolisa Sante. “I usually use the nearest ones but I recycle at home,” said fellow student Adam Leventhal. “I don’t think the trash bins are organized,” he continued, “There should be more bins like those by the men’s restroom because I don’t want to wait to go to the bathroom to throw my bottle out.”

Lauren Swaddell, president of the Hunter Solar Project (HSP)—a student-organized initiative for environmental causes, agrees. “It gets confusing, you don’t know which bin to go to so you throw it away anyway," she said.

Recycle bins are absent in the ground-level coffee lounge of Hunter West while the third-floor Hunter Cafeteria has one bin with a recycle logo and a mix of paper plates, ripped coin rolls and coffee cups.

On the first day of ‘University No Impact Week (November 15-20)’ , a staff member from the Office of Recycling Outreach and Education with grow NYC—a non-profit for improving New York’s environment—showed the difference between recyclable and non-recyclable materials.

Plastic utensils, coffee cups, and yogurt cups are not—if dumped into recycling bins they are sorted out at the recycling facility and sent to a landfill.

“You’d be surprised at how many people think what’s not recyclable is recyclable,” said Swaddell.

Jake Potent, a Hunter senior, admits he is “semi-aware” and Darrell Salle, a psychology major, thought hard before admitting he is unaware.

“We demonstrated that trash may not be just waste. It can be reused for other plastics, metals, and papers in the future, or (creating) more nutrient-rich soil,” Swadell stressed.

But, according to Swaddell, plastic remains a notorious source of environmental crisis. “It’s capable of surviving beyond the scope of human lives,” she said. “Removing them from our landfills could create space, and prevent landfill build-up.”

Jose, a Hunter employee who asked that his last name not be used, explained that recycle bags are sorted and taken to an underground level in Hunter West while general trash is compressed on the B1 level before separate pick-up trucks arrive for paper, plastic, metal, glass, and trash.

Plevritis maintains the rest is the sanitation department’s responsibility—“Hopefully, they do what they do,” he said.

Hunter College student Brad Woffer disagrees: “We can’t just rely on them, all must work to reduce waste, use appropriate bins and stay informed.”