Recycling and anti-litter initiatives

University employee Clint Naquin tosses cardboard boxes into the baler machine used for recycling located near the Sustainability Center located on North Campus. The baler machine compresses materials such as plastic containers, metal cans, paper and cardboard. Jacob Summerville/The Lion’s Roar

Located on North Campus, the Sustainability Center offers an array of learning opportunities for students in the field of recyclable sciences and technology as well as being responsible for recycling and the prevention of litter.

The university website currently lists paper, plastics number one through seven, metal cans, cardboard and used print cartridges as items that can be recycled through the university’s program.

To further understand exactly what measures will be taken towards recycling and spreading an anti-litter message, Manager of Grounds, Landscape and Recycling Carlos Doolittle shared what he hopes to add to campus.

 

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“Right now, as far as recycling, there are 20 of those blue cans on campus, nowhere near enough,” said Doolittle. “So, I’m very hopeful we’re supposed to be able to triple that amount in the near future. I haven’t seen those funds yet, but I’m hoping for that. So, that’s our goal, to get more recycling containers out here. That’s really the recycling that’s readily available to the students.”

Doolittle expanded on his previous statement, saying that a lot of paper comes from the computer labs.

“Students might see our green recycle bins by copy machines or in computer labs, but other than that, there’s really not a whole lot of opportunity for students to participate in recycling,” said Doolittle. “So, that’s what I’m really hoping is going to happen soon.”

In the past, the Sustainability Center used black cans as recycling bins, which were mistaken as garbage cans instead. 

Doolittle explained how the black cans were eventually replaced. 

“Keep Louisiana Beautiful, with one of their healthy community’s grants, two or three years ago, funded the purchase of the 20 containers that we have now,” said Doolittle. “I’m very hopeful we can continue that because the blue containers have been successful. Very, very rarely do we have to discard the collection that are from the blue containers. People understand that that is a recycle container. They use it accordingly.” 

According to Doolittle, paper, certain plastics and metal cans go through a single-stream recycling system, which means that all three types of items are mixed whenever a collection truck picks up the recyclable material. He also mentioned three items that the Sustainability Center does not recycle.

“Styrofoam is technically a plastic,” said Doolittle. “We can take that type of plastic, but we can’t take the expanded polystyrene that we know as Styrofoam. So, we don’t take that, and then, even though we do have some stuff in bags, we don’t just out and out recycle shopping bags. The reason for that is at the recycle center, those plastic films, as they refer to it in their sorting machinery that distributes the recyclables out onto the conveyor, those plastic bags just get all caught up on the knobs on that wheel that turns. Also, we do not recycle glass. There’s a little bit of a confusing message there I think because as part of the city’s recycling program, they do say that they take glass. With our recycling program, we’re not able to take glass.”

The Sustainability Center also recycles cardboard and print cartridges, but those items do not pass through the single-stream system. 

For those who want to recycle cartridges, Doolittle clarified some confusion that could occur in the process.

“We have the green containers inside the computer lab, inside departmental offices, but we don’t want those print cartridges inside those containers because what’s in that green container is getting emptied into the compactor,” said Doolittle. “It’s not going to make it to the right place. So, for the print cartridges, we just ask for people to put those off to the side so we can collect those as a separate stream.”

Doolittle noted that the recycled material goes to the Recycling Foundation of Baton Rouge, and the relatively short travel distance allows the Sustainability Center to use the single-stream recycling system. 

Doolittle explained why the recycling cans across campus say, ‘cans and bottles only.’

“Technically, we could take paper in those containers,” said Doolittle. “But as I was trying to decide what message to portray on those cans, I realized that part of what can make a collection in an outdoor container contaminated is if somebody still has coffee in their cup and they throw it in there, it gets that paper soggy and soppy, and we have to toss the whole collection. So, I did not target paper in our outside collections. Technically, it’s all going to the same place.”

Since 2012, the university has recycled 215 tons of material through the single-stream compactor. Since 2013, approximately 88 tons of cardboard have been recycled along with four tons of print cartridges and packages. 

However, according to the Southern Regional Water Program, 3.8 million tons of municipal solid waste was produced in 2000 solely in Louisiana.

“When you look at how many tons are still going to the landfill, these numbers look very, very tiny,” said Doolittle.

In the future, Doolittle hopes to see more bins on campus and spread a message against littering.

“We currently have those 20 blue recycle bins,” said Doolittle. “We have hundreds of garbage cans. So, one of the slogans that the physical plant would like to use is ‘Lion Up against litter.’ That’s kind of a campaign slogan we’d like to see more in the near future. When I can get those additional recycling containers, I would ask that people use the recycle container every opportunity they have.”

 

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