BY CAITLIN CLEMENT
Drake Environmental Action League (DEAL) and the Leadership Education and Development Concentration capstone (LEAD) implemented a sustainable recycling pilot program at the beginning of the semester with the Drake Facilities Management Team after noticing some inconsistency across campus.
“One of the biggest examples we brought up was Olmsted,” DEAL member Sophia Siegel said. “There was like eight garbage cans and not a single recycling bin.”
Over winter break, these two groups placed new trash and recycling bins in high traffic areas all over campus. Each pair of bins came with a poster displaying a guide, easily depicting what is recyclable through identifiable pictures.
There have been mixed feelings about the sudden disappearance of these mundane little tubs from classrooms. Some are annoyed at the lack of convenience it seems to pose, but most are confused as to why it was changed at all.
Mitch Wieczorek, the custodial manager working with the two groups, said the previous setup was inefficient toward the goal to sustainability with the quantity of bags being used.
“The custodial crew, they empty a bag. They do not dig in, even if there is three things. They do not empty them. They have to bag it,” Wieczorek said. “That kind of segued into the classroom end of things … Some classrooms you’d come in and there was only a little bit at the bottom but you have to bag it.”
The custodial staff is required to remove all trash bags, even if only a few items are in the bin, due to safety precautions. With the amount of trash cans stationed on campus, the quantity of plastic bags used adds up to 52,000 a year for small liners, Wieczorek said.
This new design cuts down on the amount of trash cans available on campus by centralizing all trash and recycling bins. DEAL, LEAD and the management team said their goal was to limit the amount of plastic garbage bags being used as well as maximizing the garbage volume in each trash and recycle bin.
“I understand the change was implemented to decrease the amount of waste people dispose of; however, it is definitely a bit less convenient,” said Abby Bukowski, a first-year environmental science major. “This change is a good one, though. It may encourage folks to reconsider all the things they’re throwing away.”
However, facilities are not the only main area of focus. All three groups are working with the residence halls, specifically Goodwin-Kirk Residence Hall (GK), and Sodexo to attain greater sustainability in recycling and compost.
In the first-year residence halls, executive councils (ECs) pick up the recycling bins placed outside the dorms every Sunday night after their meeting. Unfortunately, this is exclusive to first-year halls.
Sophomores in GK have to walk around the building to the singular recycling bin allotted for the entirety of GK. In the trash audit done by DEAL and LEAD in November last semester, they found the yardage of recycled material was considerably low for a residence hall of that size.
“People have come either to their EC or to me or their RAs and said they wished there were recycling bins on their floors so that they could just dump it and not have to bring it down, like down all the way to the recycling bin,” Siegel said.
After hearing these concerns, they implemented a recycle bin on every floor where there is trash. Now the students can empty their recycling without having to walk all the way outside, trying to effectively make convenience and sustainability complements of one another in order to create more consistency.
These groups have also been working with Sodexo by making room on the counters in Quad for an easier composting system than the previous orange bins from last semester. This consists of a simpler guide on what is compostable and what isn’t so students don’t have to stare at the sign in order to figure out what goes where.
Wieczorek said that he guessed about 95 percent of Sodexo’s stuff like their containers, plastic wear and napkins are all compostable. Now it’s just giving the students and staff the education on what composting is and how they can help, creating a bigger awareness on their environmental impact.
For these groups, the next step is to compile the feedback from the pilot and do another waste audit in order to see, statistically, if it was successful enough in making a greater impact with both the consistency and sustainability around campus.
If interested in giving feedback about the pilot program, contact custodial manager Mitch Wieczorek, DEAL or the LEAD capstone.