March 5, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 81  

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One-third of Western’s garbage recyclable: audit

By Ben Fine
Gazette Staff

The annual waste audit performed internally by Western administration has revealed some alarming statistics and trends concerning the recycling habits of the university’s faculty, staff and students. While many are quick to identify the problem, the question of responsibility for the mess still remains.

Results of the audit, commissioned by the physical plant and capital planning department, tell the story of recycling and waste on campus. The audit has illuminated some startling trends in Western’s waste management and its inhabitants’ recycling practices.

In calculating recycling proficiency, the auditor, Natalia Angyl, collected a representative sample of refuse from a garbage bag and measured the quantity of errantly-placed recyclables.

Despite the ubiquity of the “blue box,” 34 per cent of campus-wide waste collected in the 2003 audit was recyclable. According to the audit, tin, glass, fine paper, newsprint, plastics and other recyclables made up 644-kilograms of the 2,083-kilograms of waste collected campus-wide.

Student reaction demonstrated the ambivalence many feel towards the recycling problem on campus.

Like many on campus, Jodi Block, a third-year psychology student, considers herself a “semi-environmentally conscious” student. “Recycling is easy when it’s easily accessible,” she said. “But when you’re busy, you don’t give it a second thought.”

Every time a recyclable is tossed in the garbage, Western pays to transport it to a landfill instead of making a profit by selling valuable recyclables, said Jim Galbraith, supervisor of waste management at Western.

For the most part, physical plant relies on staff and students to take the initiative to act as “good corporate citizens,” said Dave Riddell, associate VP-physical plant and capital planning.

But the audit indicates that is not always the case. Moreover, recycling practices across campus vary widely.

The University Community Centre, populated daily by students, ranked remarkably high; its refuse was 92 per cent waste, eight per cent recyclables. Althouse College threw out only 10 per cent recyclables.

Similarly, many of the residences ranked relatively well, disposing of 32 per cent recyclables on average. Past audits place Elgin Hall and Alumni House consistently among the best. Conversely, Sydenham Hall was one of the worst performing buildings on campus, disposing of 54 per cent recyclables.

The most alarming statistics come from the Law Building, the Richard Ivey School of Business and the Stevenson-Lawson Building. The most recent statistics indicate that Law disposed of 44 per cent recyclables, Ivey and Stevenson-Lawson disposed of 55 per cent each.

Stevenson-Lawson throws out nearly one-kilogram of fine paper for every kilogram of actual waste. Ivey staff and students dispose of six kilograms of newsprint and fine paper for every seven kilograms of non-recyclable garbage.

Ivey’s low paper recycling record is nothing new. In 1999, Ivey was awarded the “failure to recycle” award by the University Students’ Council’s environmental awareness commissioner after the waste audit revealed that 54 per cent of Ivey’s waste was recyclable.

Little has changed. Fifty-four per cent of Ivey waste surveyed in the audit was still recyclable in 2002-2003.

The recycling program at Western is considered “pretty good” by Galbraith, especially considering its relatively small staff of two and budget of $105,000. Galbraith said he runs constant cost analyses to ensure the program remains cost effective, adding the program generates $20,000 in materials revenue which helps to offset its cost.

Galbraith noted he has seen Western’s landfill-bound waste reduced by over 50 per cent since 1992. Western’s recycling performance ranked second in the City of London.

EnviroWestern — a USC club — displayed the statistics of the audit at a booth in the UCC this past week and focused on one problem: Tim Hortons cups.

The cups are non-recyclable and account for 6.8 per cent of the waste collected in an average campus garbage bag, stated the audit.

The Gazette obtained an EnviroWestern proposal sent to Hospitality Services outlining the club’s interest in establishing programs aimed at reducing waste on campus. Specifically, the club is in discussion to promote the use of mugs for Tim Hortons coffee.

According to Gerry Lahay, operations manager of Western Hospitality Services, joint planning is in a “very preliminary” stage; however, he noted that the proposal is “absolutely something [Hospitality Services] is considering.”

Meanwhile, Tim Hortons’ current franchise policy affords customers a 5 to 10 cent discount (depending on size) each time a customer uses a mug, Lahay said.

Galbraith said that on some days his staff will leave a clean campus at 3:30 p.m. only to return to a litter-ridden campus at dawn.

“It’s like our house,” he said, referring to the community that shares responsibility for the cleanliness of this campus. “If we keep the bills down, we all benefit.”



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