Recycling club could bring focus back to campus sustainability efforts

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A lack of volunteers, organization, and awareness has negatively impacted recycling efforts at NEC, according to several departments on campus.

In prior years, students were involved in an active recycling group, said Mark Mitch, former club advisor and Environmental Science Professor. There is currently one student interested in restarting the group and more are needed, Mitch said. 

“The students set up recycling on campus to separate plastic bottles, glass, and cans,” he said.

Bottles and cardboard in a recycling bin outside of Charter residence hall on the campus of New England College.

The group, called The Environmental Action Committee (EAC) also created instructional signs and ventured into the dumpsters to separate the recyclables from the trash. The EAC dismantled during the COVID-19 pandemic and until recently, there hasn’t been enough student interest to restart efforts.

Recycling has not been easy, Mitch said, because it takes a commitment from the community.

Campus waste is picked up by Naughton and Son Recycling, a family-owned commercial and residential disposal business, according to the company website.

The recyclable material cannot be contaminated by other garbage, including food and liquids, according to Mitch and Daniel Gearan, NEC’s Assistant Vice President of Capital and Facilities Management. Both said contamination is a significant issue on campus.

“People would throw food into one of the bins. There was a case where somebody obviously had probably drunk too much and got sick in one of the bins or somebody urinated in one of them,” Mitch said.  

“We do run into the contamination issue,” Gearan said. “If Naughton’s brings it back and they put it on their floor and they find it’s been contaminated with food, waste, and other things that are not recyclable, their only choice is to put it all into the trash.” 

Gearan introduced the Tiny Trash program to NEC, which provides two bins for faculty and staff offices and is intended to encourage thoughtful separation.  Recyclable materials should be placed in the larger blue bin, and other waste, like food, Styrofoam, and paper should be put in the smaller black container. However, The NewEnglander spoke with several faculty members and most were not aware of how to use the two-container system.

According to Gearan, Tiny Trash is not suitable for larger spaces such as dormitories.

“Recycle only” bins in the Simon building.

There is no formal recycling program for residence halls, Gearan said. While there are recycling bins on campus, because there hasn’t been a group taking the lead on education and organization, many students don’t know how to properly take action.

“I think if the students would know that the recycling is available for them, they’d probably take advantage of it, but it’s hard to force them,” Mitch said.

A billboard in the Simon building asks students, staff, and faculty to recycle.

Mitch said he’d be the faculty advisor for students who wish restart the EAC. Anyone interested in joining, should contact Alessa Jordan at ajordan_ug@nec.edu

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