Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Where Do Campus Recyclables Go?

Letter to the Editor, The Ramapo News:

Ramapo College really does seem to do a great deal for the environment. Despite having a fairly ironic proximity to Ford's infamous dumping grounds, its students show a consistent interest in living for the greener good. But lately, I’ve been curious to see if there’s any truth to a few things I’ve noticed around campus and heard from others about their own observations. Are there parts of Ramapo's everyday operations that contradict their public reputation for being a state college leader in sustainability? 

Each room in the academic complex should have separate trash and recycling bins. Yet I’ve seen classrooms with a blue recycling bin (with garbage bag in it) and no regular trash bin in sight. That blue bin is a mix of empty coffee cups and paper alike. There have also been claims that the waste from campus offices are simply tossed into the same giant collection bin at the end of the night alongside items that should be recycled. Even the new, three-sectioned bins stationed in the recently "renovated" stairwells have been a cause for concern. Are those separations even being taken out to the appropriate bins each night? 

It's a little curious, too, that there's a designated recycling pick-up day for The Village dormitories, but nowhere to take a full bag of the recycling any other time of the week. The regular garbage dumpsters are accessible all the time to any student. But (at least in The Village) the blue bins for recyclables stay locked up until a dedicated team of student volunteers comes around to collect door to door. What if that team of students became too swamped with academic commitments to continue volunteering their time? Would we not have any recycling services at all? Does Residence Life only have an external recycling company haul away cans and bottles and plastics once a week?

And if so, is a week's worth of recycling also piling up behind the Student Center from the dining halls and academic buildings? Or is it really all getting quietly taken away each night in a garbage truck, smashed together with compostable food waste and thousands of those black plastic spoons and forks from Sodexo?

Perhaps these concerns are merely an illusion, a miscommunication, misperception, or simply bad timing. There are many hardworking custodians and facilities staff that work to take care of our campus. Perhaps we just aren't around at the right moment to see everything landing in its rightful place. But if Ramapo isn’t actually being consistent with the external services we use to take away our waste, then how can we continue to uphold the facade of a sustainability superpower in good conscience? 

Katie Attinello

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