Recycling: green dreams are made of these

by Barbara Platts / Beacon Staff • April 14, 2011

The routine is usually the same: The two small blue bins in the kitchen get filled to the brim with half empty aluminum cans, dented plastic bottles, and cardboard from care packages sent by worried parents. One roommate in the dorm begrudgingly takes out the filled bins and dumps them in the nearest receptacle. But where does it all go after that?

According to Nestor Carranza, the custodial manager, the janitors collect all the recyclable items, like cardboard and plastics, and bring them down to the loading dock by 10 a.m. every day.

Dion Pennick, a loading dock supervisor said that students do an overall pretty good job of keeping the recyclables organized using different bins.

Carranza said that he thinks the majority of students on campus recycle, but his staff still runs into problems, mostly at the Little Building.

“There are situations where people put things in the trash.” Carranza said.

[caption id="attachment_650" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Photo Courtesy of Barbara Platts"][/caption]

Carranza said he does not blame the students for the trouble at 80 Boylston St. He said he thinks that the lack of a designated trash and recycling room, like the ones in Colonial and Piano Row, makes it difficult for students to separate their waste.

According to sophomore Travis Clayton, who lives in a six-person suite in the Little Building, the recycling system is confusing. As a result, he never recycles anything.

“I don’t even know if there are recycling bins on my floor,” Clayton, an acting major, said. “They all look like trashcans.”

Clayton said he would love to start recycling if the bins on the floors were more clearly labeled.

George Barsanti, a facilities worker, said he thinks the biggest challenge when recycling is the separation of all of the different items. It can become an issue if things are cross-contaminated, because recycling trucks won’t take them. This happens when garbage and recyclable items are so mixed together that they are not worth separating and therefore get thrown in the trash. Carranza said this has only happened a few times since he started working here in 1989.

Many of the recycling initiatives on campus are relatively new. Neal Lespasio, director of Facilities Management, came to Emerson in 1997 when the only item the school was recycling was white paper at ten tons a year, he said.

Lespasio decided to undertake a comprehensive audit of the recycling system and salvage as many things as possible.

“When Neal arrived we started recycling everything,” Carranza said. “Cans, cardboard, electronics, even light bulbs — really everything.”

According to Lespasio, Emerson now recycles 140 tons of paper per year.

Although Lespasio said he is impressed with the progress over the last decade, especially considering the size of Emerson, the facilities team is constantly looking for new ideas and initiatives that can help make Emerson more environmentally friendly.