Administration cans recycling program

By Ivana Hester

Recent changes to the Recycling Program mean that the  custodial staff, rather than students, will now be collecting recyclable materials on campus.

Despite the program’s success, the administration felt the program needed revision to better benefit the students, according to Alicia Berg, vice president of Campus Environment. The program will now focus on sustainability instead of sorting recyclable material.

“I think it is below [students’] skill set to be the ones who are just going around campus removing recyclable garbage,” Berg said. “What we’d like to do is build on these things that would use their public relations and marketing skills, or their design skills, or their analytic and research skills. That to me is a much better use of student workers.”

As reported in The Chronicle Jan. 30  and April 16, the Recycling Program salvaged approximately 180 tons of garbage—48 percent of the campus’ total waste—during the 2010-2011

academic year. Yet it was originally recommended for “reorganization and consolidation” in the prioritization process.

According to John Wawrzaszek, former recycling manager and current sustainability manager of Facilities and Operations, changes started soon after the recommendation.

“We stopped doing events last spring because they wanted us to focus on collecting recycling, and then shortly after that we evolved into this changeover,” said Wawrzaszek, who has been involved in the program since its founding in the late ’90s. “Then over the summer we started having discussions with the cleaning staff, making sure they are on board to take over recycling.”

Jarvis Escobar, a representative for the campus’ cleaning staff, said his team has been split up, and at least three workers have been assigned solely to recycling and have received training from student workers and Wawrzaszek.

“It’s a challenge because we know the percentage of recycling from Columbia College, and I actually get a chill sometimes about it because I know that Columbia College recycles a lot,” Escobar said. “For my people to get involved in that, it’s going to be a challenge.”

Wawrzaszek will still oversee the program through monthly evaluations, he said. He and his team will also still be responsible for managing the collection of compost, batteries, plastic bags and electronic trash.

“They don’t see that we’re proud of our job,” said senior photography major Carlos Uribe, a student worker in the Recycling Program. “If our leaders think that we are just picking up garbage and we are not creating a necessity for recycling, then what’s the point of just carrying a cart full of trash?”

Although working for recycling did not directly relate to Uribe’s major, it was something he was passionate about.

“Being in the recycling program,I felt like I was in a circle that I necessarily had to be in,” he said. “It was generating ideas for positive students to create work.”

Virginia Baker, president of EPIC, the campus environmental club, said she does not like the idea of taking away student employment opportunities.

“I don’t think it is a good thing,” Baker said. “If it was a budgetary concern, there could have been other measures to be taken. It is just important to have students involved in the process.”