You walk into The Main, get your food in a to-go container and later throw the container away. You read a newspaper and toss it in the wastebasket when you’re done. When you finish your bottled water, where will the bottle go? In the trash?The average American throws away nearly 8 pounds of garbage every day, according to the America Recycles Web site.
The city of Fort Worth recycles 20 percent of its collected trash, up from 6 percent in 2003, according to its Web site.
So, what does TCU do to recycle?
In the 1990s, people were bringing their bottles, cans and newspapers to TCU to recycle. Now, it is the TCU community that has to venture out to find recycling venues.
According to a 1990 document, TCU won a Clean Cities “Good Neighbor” Award for its leadership in recycling.
More than 500 students were active in recycling at TCU in the 1990s. Sororities, fraternities and other student organizations picked up and sorted recyclables.
In 1997, TCU had a contract with Western Reclamation Inc. to recycle both newspaper and aluminum cans, according to a letter from the company to the Rev. John Butler, former minister to the university.
In a letter to other TCU administrators, Butler and Roger Fisher, former director of Residential Services, requested that the 1997 pilot recycling program in Brachman and Sherley halls be extended through the 1998-1999 academic year with a few modifications.
From January 1997 to September 1997, Western Reclamation Inc. recorded that TCU recycled 216 pounds of aluminum cans, 31,898 pounds of wet newspaper and 366 pounds of old corrugated cardboard.
But the revenue from the recycled material could not go to TCU because, according to the letter, TCU did not generate enough recycled material for the company to make a profit.
Still, the recycling efforts did not end.
The 1997 proposal relied on a House of Student Representatives committee to develop an educational program, relied on students to understand the recycling program and relied on the housekeeping staff to carry the recycling bags from inside each residence hall to the curb for pickup on a specified day.
An e-mail to Butler from Josh Thaden, a former resident assistant, in March 2002, proposed adding a recycling coordinator position to educate residents, oversee recycling and be a resource for recycling information.
Now, the residence halls have a Resident Assistant Recycling Committee, but Kristin Delorantis, director of Wiggins Hall, said the recycling program needs improvements.
Last semester the committee decided it needed new recycling bins and signs for each building. Delorantis said the committee is also focusing on educational techniques. The improvements will be implemented in the spring, she said.
“A lot of the time the problem is that students are not aware of the receptacles located in their building,” Delorantis said.
Will Stallworth, associate vice chancellor of facilities, stated in an e-mail to Austin Uebele, chairman of SGA’s permanent improvements committee, that about 75 percent of the university’s waste is recycled.
Annually, the university saves about $30,000 from recycled material, including paper, from all administrative buildings, Stallworth stated.
The Physical Plant also recycles scrap metal and other construction material, and landscaping debris is chipped and re-used as mulch for the campus flower beds.
Stallworth also stated that the university pays a company to pick up recycled materials from the residence halls once a week, but student participation is not good.
“Students simply have not been willing to embrace the homeowner-type recycling used in the local community,” Stallworth stated in the e-mail.
Stallworth could not be reached for comment.
Barbara Hawkins, assistant director of Residential Life, said not as many students participate in the residence hall recycling programs as was hoped.
Each residence hall has either a trash room with recycling bins or recycling bins available in the hallways, depending on how old the building is. The newer the building, the more likely it is to have a separate trash room.
Hawkins said the single-stream recycling program allows students to put aluminum, plastic and paper in the same bin. She said because of the danger to housekeepers, glass is not recycled.
Unfortunately, recycling is a choice, Hawkins said, and students need to be educated on the issue so they can make informed decisions.
“I think the easier we make recycling, the more they will participate,” Hawkins said.
Katherine McGee, a resident in Moncrief Hall, said for the most part she does recycle. She takes her recyclables down to the trash room as they build up. Items she cannot recycle at TCU, such as glass jars, she holds onto until she goes home.
Rick Flores, director of TCU Dining Services, said student involvement is a large part of recycling success and failure. He said Dining Services has implemented plans before, but because of the lack of student involvement in the program, they had to be stopped.
“Students weren’t producing enough recyclables to be picked up.” Flores said, “The issue was in keeping pests out of the area.”
Dining Services recycles through Sodexho, the company that opperates TCU Dining Services, and not through the university. Flores said the company would not pick up the recyclables until enough had accumulated, and TCU was not accumulating enough.
He said that although past efforts to implement a student-recycling program in The Main have been unsuccessful, he would be willing to attempt it again if students requested it.
“We would form a partnership with the students to recycle, but we need the students’ help,” Flores said. “Dining Services can’t do it on its own.”
Dining Services does currently recycle the paper and cardboard packaging the supplies are shipped in.
One improvement in Dining Services has been eliminating the use of the Styrofoam to-go containers and using plastic containers instead, a material that Flores said has “less of a negative impact on the environment.”
The Rev. Angela Kaufman, minister to the university, said she feels like TCU is stuck in the Stone Age because it still uses Styrofoam cups.
Flores said Dining Services tried switching from Styrofoam cups to paper cups, but students complained about the amount of sweat and were in turn using three or four cups, so Dining Services switched back to the Styrofoam.
“Because we’re a retail operation, we have to think of our consumers and their wants and needs,” Flores said.
As far as recycling food, Flores said, Dining Services can’t donate leftovers to food banks and soup kitchens because they only accept prepackaged food.
“We don’t have very much waste, though,” Flores said. “In retail, if we’re making more food than we’re selling, we’ll lose money.”
One TCU student has been trying to find a solution to some of the recycling issues at TCU.
Since March, Uebele, a sophomore pre-major, has been trying to organize a new program for TCU that would make it more convenient for the campus to recycle.
Uebele will propose a two-part program to SGA that would expand on the recycling program in the residence halls and then across the rest of the university.
In phase one, each dorm room would be provided a 7-gallon blue recycling bin to separate recyclable products from garbage.
The cost for about 1,500 bins would be around $7,000, and the first set would be paid for by the Permanent Improvement Committee. Students would be billed for lost or damaged blue bins at the time of check-out.
McGee, a junior English major, said she thinks the blue bins would help because some residents are just too lazy to walk down the hall every time they have something they want to recycle.
In addition, recycling signs in the residence halls would be replaced with signs about the convenience of single-stream recycling, a method of recycling that allows paper, aluminum, plastic and other recyclable to be recycled in the same bin.
Since the resident assistants have a direct influence on recycling in residence halls, Uebele said, they will also need to be educated on the new policy.
In phase two, the recycling bins would be placed in other university buildings. This includes, Uebele said, talking to Sodexho about making its recycling readily available in both The Main and other TCU dining areas.
Uebele said although he would like to see the recycling bins in the dorm rooms as soon as next semester, the new program will probably not begin until fall 2006.