University hopes new bins will encourage more recycling

Facilities Management is promising new recycling bins for every University office this semester as part of a larger effort to make GW a more environmentally conscious campus.

Small blue bins will replace the bulky makeshift cardboard boxes that have previously been in place to collect reusable waste. Tony Dillard, coordinating manager for Facilities Management, said he expects the new bins to have a major impact on waste disposal because they are significantly less obtrusive than the cardboard containers.

“A lot of people threw out the old boxes,” said Dillard, who added that he hopes the new bins will help the school recycle at least 40 percent of its waste. Over the past year and a half, the University has recycled an average of 29 percent of its trash.

Recycling education programs are in the works to make people aware of the new receptacles, Dillard said. “It really has got to be at the user’s level,” he said.

Though he declined to release any numbers, Dillard said the new initiative is not cost-efficient and serves other purposes.

“The benefit is way down the road,” he said. “We recycle because we care about the planet.”

The new containers will not reach all of campus, however. Most notably missing from the bin distribution list are University residence halls, whose recyclable waste often gets discarded as trash, Dillard said. He added that expanding the recycling program to residence halls will be his office’s next project.

The new measures at GW come as the District is preparing to implement a new policy designed to expand residential recycling. Starting Feb. 1, D.C. residents will not have to sort their glass, plastic and paper recyclables. The city is switching to a costly “single-stream” program, in which the District’s waste management company will separate recyclable items.

Brenda Moorman, co-chair of the D.C. Sierra Club Recycling Committee, which works to increase compliance with city recycling laws, said the new program is well intentioned but will only be effective if people know about the changes.

“The public education campaign the city had promised to do is sorely lacking,” she said, adding that, in general, the District does a “terrible job” recycling.

According to the Sierra Club, businesses in D.C., including government offices, recycle an average of 6 percent of their waste. Residents recycle approximately 14 percent of their trash.

Moorman’s committee, which meets regularly on GW’s campus, includes nine GW students.

“When the notice first went out for the Recycling Committee at the Sierra Club, GW students were the first to respond,” she said. “They have continued to remain active.”

While some students answer mail and make phone calls, Matthew Tisdale takes the committee’s enforcement mission one step further. The GW public administration graduate student goes on regular “dumpster dives” at businesses throughout the city.

Under the cover of darkness and “usually uninvited,” he sifts thoroughly through corporate refuse to determine whether companies in D.C. are throwing away recyclables.

“We find dumpsters that are open and get into them,” he said. “When we see cans, glass or plastic bottles, or paper, we’re confidently able to conclude that the businesses are not recycling.”

Before reporting a violator to city inspectors, the Sierra Club notifies the company and tries to rectify the problem without local government involvement. D.C. laws require all businesses, including universities, to recycle. Violators of the recycling laws may be subject to fines.

Moorman said her committee is looking for more students.

“For anyone who wants to go diving into dumpsters, you can do that too,” she said.

On a campus level, Dillard encouraged anyone with suggestions about the GW recycling program to contact the Facilities Management office. “This is not a closed program,” he said.

He added that the school always is trying to better its recycling program.

“There are times it might not look like we’re recycling,” Dillard said, “but we are.”

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