SFSU's Paper Recycling Doesn't Make the Grade
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SF State lies in one of the most environmentally forward places in the world, yet we can’t seem to get on top of our game in the green campus movement. The major culprit is not a lack of interest in recycling, but a lack of interest in cooperation and support between facilities staff and students/faculty.

Twenty years ago, Shelly Reider, a special studies geography student at SF State, started a recycling program on campus. For 14 years, a succession of student environmentalists ran the program, overseeing the operations
required to collect the recyclable waste generated by roughly 30,000 students. Unfortunately, her innovation and leadership have not been incorporated into the school’s current recycling system. A major thorn in the side of State’s environmental record is its lack of accessible paper recycling, a problem easily remedied with collaboration among those who use this campus and those who clean it up.

What’s troublesome about State’s paper recycling is the apathy. Many students say, if given a choice, they would recycle as opposed to throwing away paper. But few people will go out of the way to find a bin that is designated for recycling paper – and hardly anyone I asked knew where to find paper recycling bins. Paper is the single most widely used recyclable product on college campuses, and yet those with a vested interest in saving the environment don’t know where to recycle it.

In 2004, SF State’s facilities management team diverted 58 percent of the school’s waste away from the landfill. Given the relatively small staff on hand to deal with all the refuse, that’s a decent track record. But it could be better.

Students and faculty are the only groups celebrated at State, but they’re hardly the only ones that occupy this campus. The staff that cleans up are always there, but who really sees them? They’re not regarded as champions of the school. That accolade is reserved for the students who learn here and the teachers who teach them.

Numerous calls to the facilities staff regarding recycling were not returned. But then again, why would they be? So some student could tell them they’re not doing a good enough job?

Other campuses have more communication from the staff and more support from the students and faculty, which invariably leads to smoother operations, including recycling. A recent walk around our campus revealed four newspaper-recycling bins in highly trafficked areas, as opposed to upwards of 1,000 on other campuses (for those of you who don’t know, the newspaper bins are those inconspicuous metal things that resemble hazardous waste barrels).

Other feeble attempts to save paper have been made – none of which involved facilities staff. Budget cuts to the university have prompted administrators to discourage instructors from photo copying and printing. However, this is not the most tree-friendly idea. As teachers switch to electronic means of distributing course materials, many students simply print out at home what otherwise would have been given to them in class.

Students will print out their online materials, often on less efficient printers,” said Carlos Davidson, department head of the environmental studies program. “Teachers could use more efficient machines or print double-sided.”

College is often the place where young adults adopt values they will hold onto for the rest of their lives. A change in the way we all work together will not only stimulate respect for the environment, but for our fellow human beings as well.

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