Building A Better Bin part II

Saturday, May 09, 2009


When you are assigned the task of making the campus greener by improving the recycling system, you can’t just jump in without some idea of the past. Before diving into a lake there are a couple of things that you have to double check before you plunge in head-first. How cold is the water, how deep, are there are jagged rocks, and are there any leaches? I mean there are more things to consider than just this but let’s not over-kill this analogy. First things first, when did recycling begin on campus?

Back in 1992 the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) initiated a bold plan to ensure that landfills wouldn’t start bursting at the seams with waste. The MOE mandated that all academic institutions create plans to divert 60% of their waste under the threat of a fine that could reach up to $4 Million. Luckily uOttawa already had a burgeoning program in place. It was a very simple program with drop-off points and a collection center.

Now this system was great and it served the campus well for over a decade, but things started to change quickly. New products on the market and an increase in the amount of packaging began to overwhelm the system. The campus practically doubled in population since 1990 and the market value of many recyclable products diminished because of cheap production coming from Asia. Add the fact the MOE wasn’t even conducting the inspections for waste that they had promised and you can see why the campus recycling system wasn’t doing so well.

Now there were far too many variables to address all at once and far too few people to address them, so we took advantage of a beautiful but underused program at the University called the Experiential Learning Program. Enter Eric Crighton a new professor in the Geography and Environmental Studies Department. He agreed to take part in the program and have a few of his students conduct recycling surveys for the campus. The surveys were designed to help us understand how to make the system better.

The first round of surveys told us some very interesting things. One, there weren’t enough bins on campus. Two, of the bins that did exist, nobody knew where they were. Three, there weren’t enough posters telling people to recycle. And four, nobody knew what could and couldn’t be recycled. A tall order for the first round of surveys, but better to have something to work with rather than nothing.

So now that we had a road map of what people wanted, we were ready to put a plan into place. The next step was to put a team together that could create the new bins we needed.

-jon-

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