Recycling could be a profitable option for the U

A recycling discussion panel was held on April 20 at the Hinckley Institute of Politics. A group of waste management professionals came together in the caucus room to answer questions from Micah Jeppsen, the auxiliary services director of the Associated Students of the University of Utah.

Debbie Lyons, vice president of the Recycling Coalition Utah board of directors, said, “The common myth is that recycling pays for itself…nobody is making money from it.” Vice President of Administrative Affairs Arnold Combe also noted, “Costs are the critical issue here.”

Although recycling does cost money, so does disposing of waste. It seems that perhaps some of the money used to dispose of waste could be used to fund recycling programs. If everyone participates, the amount of waste produced by the university campus would be decreased and the costs of disposing of the lesser amount of waste would decrease. If recycling could dispose of a large enough amount of the waste generated on campus, it could become a profitable option for the U.

The Associated Students of the University of Utah and Jeppsen have so far raised nearly $12,000 this year toward a comprehensive recycling program. Unfortunately, $12,000 is not nearly enough to get any sort of program underway immediately. In reality, the goal should be to get a waste audit from a professional consulting firm. That could cost around $30,000 to $40,000, a far cry from the $12,000 raised this year.

The U spends $30,000 a year subsidizing its current recycling program. There are approximately 170 bins for paper, 80 for aluminum cans and 30 for newspaper spread around campus. Last year, this $30,000 program took care of the costs to recycle a whopping 10 percent of the U’s waste stream. Unfortunately, the administration seems intent on ignoring these facts, while constantly bemoaning their own opinions about costs and effort required. The costs and benefits of a large-scale recycling program at the U are unknown. They should be evaluated before the administration and students can argue whether such a program should be implemented.

Waste audit professionals should be brought in to bid on the project. Many firms, no doubt, would come in and compete for the contract. These professionals should be given the task of evaluating the amount of waste that could be saved as recyclable, the amount of recyclable waste that would be disposed as such, and the costs and benefits of a large-scale recycling program.

There is no question as to the environmental benefit of recycling, but there could quite possibly be a monetary benefit as well. Many campus organizations have begun to charge a fee for printing pages in their computer labs. Marriott Library, for one, charges 8 cents per page. The justification for this charge included “waste from excessive printing and print jobs that are never picked up-the costs involved [in printing] have become too great.”

If a recycling program were ever to become profitable on the U campus, perhaps the library and other pay for-print organizations on campus would be able to reduce or eliminate the fees for student printing. This would be another benefit of a large-scale recycling program at the U.

It is apparent that recycling is not a priority to the U administration. Creating a recycling program would take extra effort and work. However, it seems to be much easier for the administration to moan and whine about the costs without any actual consideration or cost-benefit analysis.

The U should properly fund a waste audit, even if it means suspending the $30,000 subsidy of the current recycling program to pay for the audit. In addition, students should do their part by the addition of a “green” student fee, to help pay for the start-up costs of the program. In the long run, it not only saves the environment and protects the earth but it could, quite possibly, turn a profit. This profit, if ever present, should be used to reduce pay-for-print services throughout campus.

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