REBECCA BAINER— General Assignments Reporter
In an attempt to help the environment and keep a promise to a commitment to be carbon neutral by 2050, Southern’s campus is now taking advantage of a single stream recycling program.
Heather Stearns, recycling coordinator, said the new program was effective on July 1, and the new contract is with American Waste.
“The industry for recycling,” said Stearns, “is lending itself to single stream.”
Waste from campus is brought to a Material’s Recovery Center or MRF said Stearns, and since the MRF’s have converted to single stream they have equipment that will separate all of the materials.
“It was a no-brainer for us,” said Stearns. “We decided to go single stream as well, the industry was lending itself that way so we decided to go that route.”
Stearns said by eliminating the need for people on campus to separate their own materials, the recycling effort should be easier.
“The bigger issue was for people to have to separate their materials. It lent itself to confusion,” said Stearns. “Now it’s just a whole simple process, we have two bins one for garbage, one for recycling and it takes the thinking out of it. It definitely should increase the recycling on campus.”
Stearns said the new single stream contract will actually also reduce costs, because previously a contractor had to come through campus and empty all the blue containers.
“During these hard economic times [and] for safety reasons we are no longer having contractor come into our buildings,” said Stearns. “We’ll be able to have our custodial staff empty those containers.”
Stearns said there are over 100 custodians on campus who have been trained and are doing an excellent job emptying the recycling and the trash. Recycling bins on campus have already been repainted.
“All the recycling dumpsters are now blue, they coordinate with all the blue recycling containers on campus,” said Stearns. “The trash dumpsters are a maroon brown color. They’re all clearly labeled, it tells them what can go into the container and it has the Southern Owls recycling logo on it.”
Stearns said the containers on campus are in the process of being relabeled for single stream, with labels listing the types of materials that can go in that particular bin. With 1,200 containers just in the offices around campus and another almost 200 bottling can containers, Stearns said the relabeling will take a while.
“It’s going to take a little bit of time,” said Stearns, “but, we are definitely hoping by the end of the semester we will have all those things in place.”
Stearns said her hopes are to divert as many recyclables as possible from the waste stream and cut back on weekly pick-ups for trash. Southern has also received rebates on some recycled items.
“That money that we rebate is going into the green fund here on campus,” said Stearns. “So, we can take on some sustainability projects with the sustainability committee.”
Stearns said former President, Cheryl Norton signed a climate commitment which promised Southern would be carbon neutral by 2050.
According to Southern’s website, the commitment is called the American College and University Presidents climate commitment. The website states this means Southern must achieve zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 or sooner. Currently over 600 colleges and universities in the country have also signed the commitment.
“This is just one effort in moving in that direction,” said Stearns. “I’m hoping the community will embrace it and do as much to recycle as much as they can.”
In a previous interview, Executive Vice President of capital budgeting and facilities operations, James Blake discussed a number of ways the campus is undergoing changes that will benefit the environment.
“One of the goals of the University,” said Blake, “is to continue being a good citizen of our environment.”
Stearns said it’s important to understand that everyone has a responsibility in the “green” effort on campus.
“This is not an individual effort,” said Stearns. “This needs to be a campus-wide effort that all our students, faculty and staff need to embrace for a greener environment.”