Recycling hits the dumps

By Claire Fenton

One residence dweller has taken an activist role, armed only with a camera and the desire to recycle.

His photographic evidence of residence recycling in garbage bins raised the question of recycling as a profit industry rather than being environmentally fueled.

Second-year Centre for Military Strategic Studies master’s student Joseph Zeller looked outside his window three weeks ago and was confused by what the recycling crew was doing.

“I saw them take out all the recycling and dump it in the dumpster, blue box by blue box,” he explained. “They dumped all the plastics and everything else except for a handful of paper back into the dumpster. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and I had my camera.”

Recycling is a choice that some residence students make even though it is time-consuming, Zeller said.

“We take the time to divide out our recycling and put it aside,” he said. “We take it down however many flights of stairs and put it aside in those rooms for a reason. If those reasons not being fulfilled, if we are being deceived [then] that’s pretty scuzzy. It’s the deception I have a problem with.”

Residence Food Conference associate director Ed Buchan agreed that throwing away recyclable material was not in the contract with Calgary’s Commercial Recycling Services. He had his manager of maintenance speak to the company about the issue.

Buchan pointed out the problem may not be the company or the residence association, but the students.

“[We were told] if the milk jugs haven’t been rinsed out, they have to throw it out,” he said. “No recycling place will accept it, but for the most part they recycle whatever can be recycled.”

Zeller was concerned that residence was deceiving students and throwing out certain recyclable materials because they wouldn’t be as profitable.

However, Buchan admitted that profiting from recycling is a thing of the past. There was a time when money could be made off recycling, but that is no longer, he explained.

“It costs us money,” Buchan said. “There used to be companies that would bid on getting [our] recycling contract, but this isn’t the case anymore.”

The recycling program was started by students and improvements in it have to come from students, said Buchan.

“We take initiative from the students and we get great ideas from the students,” Buchan said. “For us, it’s a sustainability issue. We’ve always tried to do it. I’ve had student groups right from the start going, ‘We want to get recycling.’ ”

Buchan was proud that students took initiative to improve residence living and was grateful that someone was watching, since it showed students care and take pride in recycling.

Buchan admitted that improvements could be made and is in talks for a composting program. He will post information on how to properly clean recyclables to prevent them from going to the landfills.

“I agree that we should probably do something more to educate the students on what would eliminate a recyclable product from being recycled,” he said.