More than 40 tons recycled on campus

By Rob Tokanel, News Staff

‘ While Northeastern’s recycling program continues to expand dramatically, members of the local community and students living in off-campus and leased properties may not be keeping pace with those living in university housing.
Northeastern’s Solid Waste and Recycling Manager Peter Lembo said campus recycling statistics for 2008 will be a vast improvement over an already impressive record for the school. While official numbers will not be released for several weeks, Lembo said more than 40 tons of bottles and cans were recycled on campus in 2008, nearly doubling the number recycled in 2007.
‘We’ve had our trash volume go down and our recycling numbers go up, and that includes picking up several tons of trash that didn’t belong to us,’ he said.
Some trash, he said, comes from off-campus neighbors who assume the university will pick up discarded waste for them. Lembo said most of the waste belongs to local residents, especially on Huntington Avenue, and not to students.
‘A lot of times our students get blamed for [the trash],’ he said. ‘We’ve gone through trash bags and found names on items just to prove that the trash isn’t coming from us.’
Joe Ferson, spokesperson for the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, said that while the state does not mandate recycling or require building owners to provide recycling services, the trash left on Huntington Avenue can be taken up with the local law enforcement.
‘That’s just littering, and that can be enforced at the city level,’ he said. ‘That’s a violation right there and that should be a fine.’
Lembo said the university does nothing to regulate the waste disposal of students in leased properties and local off-campus residences, many of which are located on Huntington Avenue, Columbus Avenue and St. Stephen Street.
‘We don’t get involved with leased properties,’ he said. ‘If we don’t own the property, it’s not our responsibility.’
Derry Rooney, building manager for the Douglass Park apartment complexes, said the students in his properties have the option of recycling outside the building instead of throwing cans and bottles in the trash rooms located on each floor; but he finds it’s often the non-student residents who are more likely to take advantage of the recycling bins.
‘I think students in general don’t recycle as much as they should,’ he said. ‘I know when they have their parties and there’s lots of beer cans, they’re not throwing them in the recycling bins.’
Middler biochemistry major Mike Sayward said he was not aware that he could recycle when he lived in Douglass Park last year, but that he would have taken the opportunity if he was.
‘Every Thursday we would have a few dollars worth of redeemable cans going to waste into trash bags,’ he said. ‘If we were cleaning up a big mess, I’d probably say forget it, but during the week I think I would have recycled.’
Short of encouraging building managers and landlords to promote recycling, Lembo said there is little the university can do to get recycling numbers higher for off-campus students.
‘We’ve helped out most everybody around the neighborhood, but we don’t have access to the leased properties,’ he said. ‘We don’t have keys to them, and we don’t have access to the trash rooms.’
Dan Abrams, director of marketing and public relations for the Husky Energy Action Team (HEAT), said off-campus and leased properties have become a recent focus for HEAT, and they are working closely with Facilities to start a new program dealing with off-campus waste.
‘One idea we have is starting a central location for recycling,’ he said. ‘This allows for students whose buildings don’t have recycling bins or a recycling infrastructure to recycle on campus if they want to. It’s a little inconvenient, but it’s the best idea we have at this time.’
Abrams said HEAT’s new Green Living Guides, to be released by the end of the spring semester, would also include a version specifically for off-campus students; it will outline the rules and regulations for the city of Boston’s recycling programs and describe how students can take advantage of resources outside of Northeastern.

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