Recycling Program cuts events

By Heather Scroering

You may have seen them cleaning out paper, plastic and aluminum can collection bins. You may have purchased one of their recycled, screen-printed T-shirts. Those who work for the Recycling Program are doing the dirty work and educating students all over campus.

But with the prioritization process cracking down on programs, some, including recycling, could be restructured, reorganized or consolidated, according to the Program Information Request ranking worksheet. As a result of the first scoring level, the program may no longer be hosting or partnering with student organizations on any events this semester.

The Recycling Program—which is composed of eight student workers, two part-time workers and two managers—not only collects paper, plastic, cans, batteries and compost, among other things, it also partnered with other student organizations on campus to host events and raise awareness about sustainability, according to John Wawrzaszek, recycling manager of Facilities & Operations.

“In the past, we’ve worked with other departments and student groups for a lot of our events that work with outside organizations,” Wawrzaszek said. “That can benefit our campus by bringing a different perspective in and also working with people on campus to kind of bridge gaps.”

According to John Kavouris, associate vice president of Facilities and Construction and Facilities & Operations, decisions to focus more on the labor aspect of the program had to do with attendance figures at events.

While they did not always go as planned, according to Dan Pizzoferrato, senior music major who has worked for the Recycling Program for two years, some events, such as the Earth Day Eco Fair, were well-attended by the community.

“[Events] help to remind people of recycling and be a little more conscious of what you do,” Pizzoferrato said. “[They] increase awareness for recycling. It’s something you don’t see and never think about.”

The Recycling Program has also partnered with the Art & Design Department’s Anchor Graphics, screen-printing on old T-shirts and giving them away for a donation, according to the Anchor Graphics summer/fall 2011 publication.

Virginia Baker, sophomore fiction writing major and president of the student organization Environmental Protection Initiative at Columbia, believes events were educational.

“It’s really important to hold events in order to educate students,” Baker said. “Events are a fun way to do that and get information out there. By canceling them, it lessens the amount of information getting to the student body.”

She added that education is necessary in order to implement sustainability.

Neale Baldyga, Recycling Outreach coordinator of Facilities & Operations, said events create a community for students.

“[Events] create an outlet for those students who wanted to use their art or their talents and integrate them with sustainability,” Baldyga said. “Students who want to learn something have fun and have a platform for networking.”

The Recycling Program is still a necessary component of the college, Kavouris said. It plays a role in the college’s sustainability plan, which was released in September 2011. The plan is a “road map” of how to make every building on campus more sustainable. It also includes why education is important.

“Education is an essential tool for achieving sustainability: Public awareness and training are vital in moving students and, by extension, society toward sustainability,” according to the plan.

From August 2010 to September 2011, the program recycled more than 48 percent of waste the college produced, including batteries and hazardous chemical waste, according to Wawrzaszek. A breakdown of all recycled waste was released Jan. 30 and can be found on the Recycling Program’s


Though the Recycling Program will no longer host events or partner with student organizations, this does not mean events are gone for good, according to Kavouris. Students are encouraged to take over.

“Call to them to pick up where we’ve left off,” Wawrzaszek said. “If [students] really want this, we would support what [they] do, but [they] have to make it happen.”