Recycling project underway
Oberlin College started experimenting with a new recycling system this fall that will recycle paper more efficiently and make money for the College if students take an active roll in the process.
The new program is a divided system that reorganizes paper into a separate receptacle located next to the original recycling bins. The paper bins get emptied by the custodial staff and placed in a collection center on campus once a week. From this center, workers from the facilities building bring the paper to the two yellow and green dumpsters outside Barrows and Keep Co-op. Every week, Abitibi Consolidated, a Cleveland-based company, retrieves the paper from the dumpsters and pays the College $15 per ton of paper.
The new program differs from the old system by recycling more. The system accomplishes that goal because paper is kept apart from other recyclables, like soda cans and glass bottles. When all the products go into one bin, paper often gets wet or soiled. Contaminated paper cannot be recycled. Paper separation in the bins is advantageous because it decreases contamination of the paper by other recyclables. Under the older single stream system (one bin), only 50 percent of the paper put into bins actually got recycled when it reached the recycling plant due to contamination.
Trevor Walter, an Oberlin student employee at the Recycled Products Cooperative, spoke about the new system.
“We are trying to increase the amount of recycling that happens here,” he said. “If this program works for paper, we might try to do the same with other recyclables, like aluminum and glass, if we can find someone who wants to buy it from us.”
The new system turns recycling into an asset for the College when it used to be a financial drain. It costs the College a full year of tuition to remove recyclables through a system that is run through a contract with the town.
As one of the primary sources of used paper, students will be crucial to the success or failure of the new system. Some extra initiative will be needed as paper must go in a separate bin with no contamination. Students reportedly support recycling, but only to the extent that it remains convenient.
“I think the new system is a great idea; students will do it if it’s made easy for them, but if it takes a lot of effort, then they probably won’t,” said College sophomore Rachel Leibson.
Dan Gessner, also a sophomore, agreed.
“I just don’t think it will happen,” he said. “It’s so much easier to just throw things out in my room, and I don’t want to sort out paper that is contaminated already and put it in the bins.”
None of the several students interviewed had heard of the new recycling system.
“If it is going to work, students need to be made aware of the new system,” said sophomore Rob Hartley.
This program also affects the custodial staff, adding to the work they have to do each week bringing the paper bin contents to the main collection center. At a meeting Monday, the employees of the Recycled Products Co-op met with the evening custodial staff, who will be transporting the paper, to discuss the program. The response from the custodial staff was one of reluctance as the extra work will be inconvenient for them.
Oberlin College is not the only place in town trying this new system. Some
public schools in the area are also experimenting with paper separation and
Abitibi Consolidated will be retrieving paper from them as well.