MVC looks to solve recycling problem

Mount Vernon College Executive Dean Grae Baxter discovered trash on her front steps for the past few weeks, after making an offhand comment that if a lack of recycling on the campus was upsetting students, they could leave their recyclable materials with her.

Mount Vernon freshman Jan Stucke leaves bags of garbage on Baxter’s front steps. Stucke also keeps trash in her room. She separates recyclable materials into different garbage cans and then puts the contents in a Provisions Market bag.

Other women on the Mount Vernon campus have taken Stucke’s lead. Stucke said she saw about 20 bags on Baxter’s steps last week, with more coming this week.

I’m big into recycling, Stucke said.

Enough people complained (about the lack of recycling) that Baxter said, `Oh, if it’s that big a deal you can put your recycling in front of my house,’ Stucke said.

Baxter said the situation is under control right now, but added that she fears the trash may become so voluminous that the city will stop picking up her recycling.

This is not a solution, she said.

The only recycling facilities at Mount Vernon are located in the mailroom, where only newspapers can be recycled.

Recycling has been a perennial issue at GW. In 1994 the University launched a Green University Initiative, a partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency to promote ecosystem protection and pollution prevention.

Since then, the results have been mixed. A Feb. 12 1998 Hatchet article cited that only 12.3 percent of campus waste was recycled the previous year.

GW’s results reflect an additional trend in the District, where the recycling program has been alternately cut and reinstated, according to the D.C. Department of Sanitation Web site. The existing city recycling program was re-implemented in 1998. City residents presently can recycle glass, plastic, metal food and beverage containers, newspapers and corrugated cardboard.

On Tuesday evening Baxter met with a group that included Arlene Duffy, director of the Student Development Center at Mount Vernon, John Kane, the Mount Vernon facilities manager, David Weir, who heads Aramark Services at Mount Vernon, which handles housekeeping, and students. The meeting was the first step in researching the logistics of establishing a full-fledged recycling program at Mount Vernon, Baxter said.

We’re trying to be realistic, Baxter said. This is not by way of finding a reason not to recycle, (but) we want to make sure this investment pays back in a better environment.

Those at the meeting have been given assignments.

We’re all getting educated – this is not simple, Baxter said. Baxter said there are many unresolved issues relating to the feasibility of recycling on campus, such as whether the Department of Sanitation would pick up recyclable materials and whether the contractor who picks up the waste will actually recycle it.

Mount Vernon students were assigned to study recycling habits on campus to try to find ways of reducing waste in addition to recycling.

The key is internal policies on the campuses that minimize waste, like using both sides of paper, taking your paper cup with you instead of (getting a new one), Baxter said. She said she has been impressed so far with the intent of the students working on the recycling program.

The group members will meet again following spring break to report on their findings. Baxter said she was unsure of the outcome of the group’s work.

What we do know is we can make a difference, Baxter said. The part we can control is what we use, and at least we can make a difference.

Meanwhile, as the group works out the logistics of the recycling problem, Stucke plans to continue recycling, whatever way possible.

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