Bookstore slow to implement green measures
 

Though the SFSU Bookstore began advertising last week that it would start recycling batteries, cell phones, fluorescent light bulbs and ink cartridges, it is not yet ready to accept them all.

Signs for the new recycling program—modeled after one that a student group introduced last semester—were posted mere weeks before the university’s Facilities & Enterprises plans to unveil its own collection system.

But while the signs say students “can recycle any of these used products by dropping them off inside the bookstore,” only collection bins for batteries and ink cartridges exist currently. And while ink cartridges, toner cartridges and computer batteries will be recycled with SF State’s other electronic waste, bookstore floor manager Joseph Rogers said ECO Students would pick up the batteries and dispose of them properly.

This surprised the group of environmentally conscious students, which said earlier it looked forward to dropping off its batteries at the bookstore.

The confusion reveals a disconnect among the many parties hoping to recycle SF State’s uncollected household hazardous waste, a task fraught with issues ranging from safe collection and liability to potential costs.

Throwing away electronic and household hazardous waste in the garbage has been illegal in California since February 2006, when residential exemptions expired on the state’s Electronic Waste Recycling Act of 2003.

ECO Students attempted to tackle the challenge last October when it introduced a collection program during its “Every Day is
Earth Day” festival in the Quad. The group said it would collect used batteries, cell phones, compact fluorescent bulbs and ink cartridges in small plastic bins located in the Cesar Chavez Student Center and several department buildings.

Facilities staff told the [X]press on October 22—the day the program began—that, after speaking with ECO Students, it was agreed the program would not continue after the week long festival. The department cited safety and legality concerns, shared by others including San Francisco’s household hazardous waste facility, as the reasons for ending the program.

Though they are not necessarily harmful during regular use, electronic and household hazardous waste often contain small quantities of chemicals or heavy metals—such as cadmium, lead and mercury—that can poison groundwater in landfills, according to a Web Site for Norcal Waste Systems, San Francisco’s garbage hauler.

But Suzanne McNulty, a member of ECO Students, said the program continued after further discussions with facilities and the group still collects the items from bins in the Humanities building and elsewhere. Facilities staff with knowledge of the program were not immediately available for comment.

The group has not yet collected enough to warrant a trip to a recycling facility, so everything collected so far resides in HSS 377, the group’s headquarters, McNulty said.

After dropping off one of the group’s bins in the bookstore last December, McNulty said she was pleased that “they’ve decided to take the idea and run with it.”

The bookstore’s effort—advertised inside and outside the bookstore by signs with the ECO Students logo—is “an institutionalization of [our] program” that ensures collection will continue beyond the group’s current members, she said.

However, Rogers said he was unaware the signs were already up and that advertising the program was premature, likely an oversight by the bookstore’s advertising group. Rogers said he was still looking for a facility that handles CFLs and cell phones and would not want to accept the items until he found a location.

Bill Nolan, the store’s computer sales supervisor will handle the ink and toner cartridges, and ECO Students will pick up the batteries once the collection bin—located in the battery section and which looks exactly like the bins the group left with the bookstore and other department offices—fills up, Rogers said.

Nolan said he takes the ink and toner cartridges, collected in a small blue bin by the store’s ink cartridge section, and computer batteries to SF State’s SWAP Shop under Burk Hall. A licensed hazardous waste carrier collects them there along with the university’s electronic waste.

Until he was asked about it, Nolan said he had not heard about the bookstore’s effort to recycle beyond what he collected, which recycling coordinator Caitlin Fager helped facilitate.

Fager said she too did not know about the program beyond Nolan’s personal project, but that facilities will have its own program “in a month or so. We’re working on it, but we’re not ready to talk about it.”

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COMMENTS

Alex Moore said

We have spoken with SF State before regarding the collection and recycling of printer cartridges and cell phones. I am glad to hear that there is movement on the ground.

The California community-based recycler, eCycle Group, would be happy to pay top market prices for SF State's used cell phones, insuring proper downstream handling.

http://www.ecyclegroup.com

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