College removes classroom trash bins to promote recycling

by Max Jungreis / Beacon Correspondent • October 12, 2017

Trash cans are being removed from classrooms all over the school. Sustainability Coordinator Amy Elvidge said it is part of a plan to make the school green and frugal. 

Elvidge said she formed the idea after studying how other schools increased their recycling rates. Emerson recycles about 26 percent of its waste by weight. This includes recycling, food compost, and donations of clothing and furniture.

Elvidge said that after visiting Harvard Universityand Bentley University, schools that recycle over 50 percent of their waste, she discovered that they had both increased their rate in part by removing waste baskets from classrooms and replacing them with larger, clearly labelled recycling cans in the halls.

When students can’t throw away items in class, Elvidge said she hoped they naturally group around the bins in the hallway, picking up knowledge from their peers. 

“Students see peer modeling. They see students that know that a Starbucks cup is recyclable putting it in the recycling bin. They know that they can then do that,” Elvidge said. “There’s also peer pressure.”

Elvidge said she acknowledges the inconvenience of the setup, but sheencourages people to think about the benefits. 

“We’re saving a lot on a lot of labor and single-use bags being put in these small waste bins in many different classrooms,” Elvidge said. “That money and labor is being allotted to more important causes that students, staff, and faculty care more about.”

Emerson Manager of Custodial Services Nestor Carranza said the plan drains his worker’s time by encouraging students to litter in classrooms.

“Now the students are leaving all the mess on the floor,” Carranza said. “So instead of doing the cleaning in five minutes, it’s taking more time for my guys to get everything off the floor because there are no recycling bins, no trash cans in the rooms.”

When asked if he thought the plan would continue into the future, Carranza said he hoped not.

Cleaning Manager Supervisor Walter Lopes, who oversees Emerson’s night cleaning crew for Prospect Building Services Corporation, voiced similar complaints.

“Instead of shampooing all the carpets in classrooms once a month, we have to go in sometimes twice a week,” he said. 

Writing, literature and publishing professor Vassiliki Rapti said she does not mind the inconvenience, but thinks more people should be aware of the program.

“I will never leave any garbage anywhere, but probably before doing any extra step, it might be useful to to enlighten people about the ups and downs of that decision, raising awareness of what it means,” she said.

For students like freshman Logan Conover, the extra hassle is worth it if the college benefits. 

“If it truly is going to save money, I don’t think it’s much of an issue to go out in the hall to throw something out,” Conover said. “But if it’s not really going to do much in the long run, I don’t see the purpose of it.”

The plan is a work in progress, and there are still classrooms with trash bins. According to Elvidge, since last summer bins have been consolidated in the Ansin, Walker, Paramount, and Union Bank buildings andin the campus theaters.