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Biology Club tries to revive recycling

By Terri Rorke
Photo Editor

As a small university located in a county without a recycling mandate, UNCP is not a typical place to find people recycling.

Even though the university does take part in recycling many products, it is uncommon for the average student to find convenient bins to place their recycled goods.

School’s efforts

The university does recycle oils, wood, tires, batteries, grease from the cafeteria and electronics every day, but many people do not notice the school’s efforts, said Physical Plant Department Director Larry D. Freeman.            

“So, it is not like we are throwing every bit away,” Freeman said. The school just does not provide a more visible recycling program, he said.

Vice Chancellor of Business Affairs Neil Hawk made comments about the school’s previous efforts for a visible recycling program years ago.            

“We had bins in every building,” he said. But the school didn’t get a lot of participants,” he said.

“Then we lost the people that were buying our recycled goods— they went out of business. So we didn’t have a convenient supply to resell it,” Hawk said.

Blue bins

Senior pre-pharmacy major Joe Williams recycles his soda bottle in the Herbert G. Oxendine Science Building.

Photo by Terri Rorke
Senior pre-pharmacy major Joe Williams recycles his soda bottle in the Herbert G. Oxendine Science Building.

Once the school got rid of the bins, the school’s faculty and staff were given small blue bins labeled for white paper to be recycled, Hawk said.

Some campus employees are still using these bins to recycle, but there is not a recycling agency available to pick up any paper, so the white paper gets thrown away.

The issue            

“We have no program. They started a program, but it’s hard to maintain that with our current level of personnel. It has never worked very well,” Freeman said.

Freeman said it was a big investment in making sure people were recycling strictly white office paper.                 

Then it had to be put into a required size of bail. He said it was discouraging to hire personnel to take the paper to an agency that will only offer about $5 for several tons of paper.            

“How long can you afford to do that? It’s got its pros and cons,” he said.

“They just need to get rid of these blue bins because I don’t think I am the only one who thinks that she’s recycling by putting paper in there,” said Susan Cannata, associate professor in the English, Theatre and Languages Department.   

As a teacher, Cannata said she goes through a lot of paper.            

“I have stacks of paper here that I try to use the other side for things, but I even find I go through lots and lots of paper. Others I know try to cut down on that, but it’s hard to,” she said.

For a recycling center to pick up the school’s recycling, Freeman said the school would have to guarantee a certain volume of goods, which he said is impossible to do.

School’s accommodation            

However, the school does accommodate students who want to recycle.                             

Freeman worked with the Student Government Association and the Lumberton Recycling Center a few years ago to create a program for students, faculty and staff to participate in recycling by utilizing recycling bins on campus.

If an organization decides to set up a program, Freeman said he will help with obtaining recycling bins.            

But the organization has to be in charge of keeping the bins clean and delivering acceptable recyclables; the group can keep the money for recycling also.

Freeman said he is surprised that no has come to him about initiating a program this semester, but all he or she has to do is call.         

SGA not participating            

In 2005, SGA was in charge of about 12 bins around campus. Today, none of the bins are being used.           

“It’s one of those things that sounds very simple on the surface, but the deeper you get involved, the more complicated it gets …Until I get the visible recycling organized and get it working right, find out costs, get funding for it, then I kind of let that part of it ride. The school recycles a lot. But our students don’t see that and they say, ‘you’re not recycling,’” he said.            
“That’s why the Lumberton program is being offered to the students,” he said.

Biology Club

There are efforts on campus for recycling. The UNCP Biology Club pioneered its own recycling program two years ago.

The club has about 10 bins placed in the Herbert G. Oxendine Science Building for plastic bottles and aluminum.

Volunteers from the club periodically empty the bins and keep the program running.

Recycling initiative            

The club’s president, senior biology major Allison McRae, said recycling needs to be convenient for people.

“If they have to go out of their way, they won’t because it’s an effort. With the bins around campus, they can just drop it in the container,” McRae said.            

McRae, who plans to earn a Ph.D. and become an entomologist, said, “I think our generation is really more aware. You have to be aware of it, especially when your career is going to be involved in how well the environment is taken care of.

“We study organisms and plants, and they won’t always be there if we don’t take care of our environment. You have to see yourself as a part of it. Doing this is kind of like taking care of our home,” she said.            

If there would be a strong interest in recycling and a lot of organizations would express an interest in recycling, Freeman said the school could possibly have a big program again.

But he said there would have to be a strong community effort for the program to be successful.            

If the school initiated a new recycling program, Hawk said, “The program would have to recoup the cost of our efforts, but it takes participants to make it work.”

A future mandate                               

Freeman said he expects the North Carolina Department of Natural Resources to mandate all universities in the state to recycle in the future. Plus, Robeson County is expanding recycling to a second site.

With these developments, Freeman said he expects changes for UNCP.            

“If an outside entity wants to come and run a recycling program, I’m willing to work with them. I wouldn’t charge anyone to come in and recycle.  If someone is in the recycling business, tell them to come and talk to me,” he said.

Getting in the habit

As someone who has lived in places where recycling was a convenient action, Cannata said she is used to recycling.            

“I am so conditioned to recycle. The places that I’ve lived before, in Massachusetts and in New Mexico, there was curb-side recycling and the bottle bill— things that made it a lot easier for people to recycle and to make you feel guilty if you threw something away,” she said.

“It’s a part of so many other cities in the nation— just an integral part. I just think everybody needs to do it,” she said.             Cannata said she understands recycling is costly for the school but said, “In the long run it’s going to cost a lot of money to clean up the oceans, landfills and stuff like that. It’s kind of a looking ahead program too.            

“It’s just so obviously good in the long run and you have to start somewhere,” Cannata said.

Getting involved

Organizations that participate in the recycling program can get 500 community service points for the Chancellor Cup competition.

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Updated: Friday, December 8, 2006
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