By Jose Diaz
Recycling at FSW tends to be mixed up. Recyclables get mixed with the trash, faculty actions get mixed up with administrative responses, and students can’t make sense of the mess.
FSW has nearly 100 trash cans in outside areas around the Lee campus, excluding the dorms, parking lots, and Suncoast Arena.
Eight of these cans include separate bins for recyclables only. These eight recycling bins are the only ones in outside areas on campus.
“I thought both of those were trash,” said Jenifer Solis, a FSW dual-enrolled freshmen. “Someone could just go up and throw trash in [it].”
When looking inside these bins, it’s clear many students feel the same as Solis because the bins tend to be mixed with trash and recyclables. It is hard to distinguish, with only the lids showing the names.
With about 100 garbage cans to eight recycling bins, the question poses itself: does FSW have an effective recycling method at all?
“One of the easiest ways to encourage proper recycling is to make sure each available trash can has a recycling container located right next to it and each container has clear labels indicating the material that should be placed in each” said Molly Schweers, Communication Specialist for Lee County Solid Waste Division. “Education is key.”
According to Schweers, we should have one recycling bin next to every trash can.
“People would be more conscious with more recycling bins,” said Stephanie Anton, a FSW sophomore. “For our campus to be so big and outdoors, we should probably have more recycling bins and less waste bins.”
Kelly O’Hanlon, president of Legal Studies and Global Citizens club at FSW, faced this problem during a Roe v. Wade mock trial and presentation when she tried to get recycling bins set up around the event room.
“I was told that we don’t have recycle bins,” said O’Hanlon. “When I pushed back on not having recycling bins, I was told ‘well students will throw garbage in the recycle bins anyway so we don’t recycle’.”
“So then I said ‘well, if they’re throwing it in the trash, maybe that’s just an education thing’,” said O’Hanlon. “Maybe you just need to educate about it and have the receptacles there.”
O’Hanlon, however, doesn’t blame the event staff for the lack of bins.
“The larger issue is the very small number of recycle bins available, which left these departments without the ability to provide them when specifically requested.”
O’Hanlon set up her own recycling bags around the room, in order to throw them out separately herself. Many faculty members at FSW are familiar with O’Hanlon’s struggle, separating personal office waste and taking recyclables home to throw out.
“I wash and take all my recyclables home,” said Peggy Romeo, biology professor at FSW.
The main reason why they take their waste home, is due to the way custodians take out trash from offices. Custodians say their supervisors tell them to use one cart, with one bin to collect trash from every office.
They do not work for FSW, though. They work for a janitorial and grounds vendor, ABM Industries, who did not respond to questions about company policies on recycling.
The economics of recycling are unknown to the students, as well as the college. On the Lee, Charlotte, and Collier campuses, facilities management and construction takes care of waste collection, energy efficiency, land and building maintenance, and custodial management.
“FSW has not performed a detailed cost analysis of recycling, but may look into existing studies by other colleges and universities,” said Mathew Mason, director of Facilities Management and Construction at the Lee campus. “Recycling does cost the college additional funds as it requires additional labor and equipment to process. However, recycling is everyone’s responsibility to minimize our impact on the environment.”
Though there is no detailed cost analysis, David Kaiser, director of facilities at the Collier campus, believes recycling is beneficial.
“The trash dumpster cost would increase by almost double if we did not recycle,” said Kaiser. “I believe we do save money and keep recyclables out of the landfill.”
Lee campus facilities seem to be on the same page for improving the college’s stance on recycling.
“The college as a whole can and will do a better job of recycling as we move forward,” said Mason. “There are many avenues to reducing a carbon footprint which, recycling is a part [of], but our focus recently has been on energy usage and equipment/ material efficiencies as new projects are funded.”
Mason did not elaborate on what energy usage or new projects, but did state the importance of bringing recycling into the light.
“[The] inquiry into our current recycling program was helpful for me to begin asking some questions about recycling in general,” said Mason. “In my short time as Director, I have a sense that Administration is supportive of positive changes when it comes to the environment and hope to implement some ideas as [the] new budget years’ approach.”
FSW biology professor, Christina Ottman also brings items home to wash and recycle. She has her own idea about how FSW can change its recycling practices.
“There needs to be a student-led initiative, which would have full faculty support,” said Ottman.
The Compass spoke to many faculty members who support more effective recycling at FSW. Some declined to speak on the record in fear of retaliation from the college.