Push for recycling edges forward

Although administrators acknowledge the U is not recycling as much as it should, they are not ready to expand the campus’ current recycling program.

They say more money and further research is needed before the current “fragmented” recycling program can be expanded into a more coordinated campus-wide effort.

A 2005 audit of the U’s waste flow revealed that the U is recycling 17 percent of its total waste. The investigation, contracted to Cascadia, a recycling consulting group, found that about 70 percent of the U’s garbage could be recycled-the majority of which is paper.

Administrators said they estimate the amount of waste currently being recycled is closer to 23 or 24 percent, with composting and recycling performed by waste-removal companies.

“Recycling is perhaps an area (in which) we have not been proactive enough,” said Cory Higgins, associate vice president for Facilities Management.

Higgins said the audit revealed that the U is recycling more than previously thought and that, on a national level, the school is recycling more than many universities.

“We learned (from Cascadia) that we’re probably doing a lot more than we thought we were, but also that there’s some more things we can do,” Higgins said. “Within this calendar year we would like to have a very noteworthy program.”

Both Brigham Young University and Utah State University have had recycling programs since the early ’90s and report recycling 48 percent and 20 to 25 percent of their overall waste, respectively.

Higgins said the upper administration has been pushing to improve the recycling program for years.

“The administration really isn’t holding this up,” he said. “They’ve been very supportive of what were trying to get done.”

Que Collard, an administrator who has overseen the recycling program, said the logical solution is to put more recycling containers around campus, but he said putting a recycling bin in every classroom and office would carry a hefty price tag.

“The challenge is going to be ‘where do we find the money for that?'” Collard said.

He said it would likely cost more than $125,000 to buy the bins and pay the custodial staff to collect the recyclables.

Collard said that, for now, the U plans to focus on recycling paper because nearly 40 percent of the U’s trash is recycable paper, whereas other recyclables, such as plastic and glass, account for less than one percent.

Collard is heading a recently formed campus task force on recycling. The committee is made up of students, faculty and administrators.

Currently, the task force is conducting a pilot recycling program in Milton Bennion Hall and the Business Classroom Building. He said the test program will provide information on how to better implement a recycling program.

Collard said the administration is also waiting to receive the final recommendations on the audit from Cascadia. A draft report of the waste audit’s findings was completed in June 2005, but Collard said Cascadia has not yet finalized its report.

Some people think it’s time for a more effective recycling program to be put into action.

“It sure is taking a long time,” said Natasha McVaugh-Seegert, assistant director of the environmental studies program.

She said she frequently gets calls from students and faculty asking where they can recycle because there are not enough centrally located bins.

The student government has been a strong supporter of the effort to encourage recycling. In 2005, the Associated Students of the University of Utah raised nearly $100,000 to fund the waste audit.

Rob Graham, the current director of recycling in ASUU, said during an ASUU Senate hearing in August that the U administration was preventing the expansion of the recycling program.

“The man in charge?he just sometimes doesn’t keep it going,” he said.

Graham later said he made those remarks before learning about the administration’s current efforts and is now working with Collard on the project.

“At that time, I didn’t know a whole lot,” he said.

Will Chatwin, a senior in university studies and a student member of the recycling task force, said that, in the past, the administration and students have not worked together well on the recycling issue, but that the relationship has improved in recent years.

“With the Mike Young administration, I get the feeling that they do want to be improving things,” Chatwin said.