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Recycling Myth-Buster: It’s in the Bag

Recycling on campus is serious business, so people are voicing concerns when they see facilities staff dumping trash and recyclables in the same bin then hauling it away. So it’s time to bust the myth.

“I understand why there is some confusion, so we want to set the record straight. All material is appropriately separated, we are not trashing the recyclables,” said Bill Tsaknopoulos, director of auxiliary services at UMass Chan who manages the campus recycling and trash disposal programs.

At the root of the confusion is the single cart Environmental Building Services (EBS) staff now use when collecting recyclables and trash.

Both trash and recyclables are taken from the office or hallway bins, bagged separately, and placed into a single cart for transport to the loading docks. At the docks, the waste streams are separated and the bags are placed into either the trash or recycling compactors.

“It looks funny when they empty the large paper recycling bins into plastic bags and throw them in the cart, but the problem is those old, 96-gallon recycling bins have just two wheels and they get too heavy for one person to handle when they are filled with paper,” Tsaknopoulos said.

The facilities management team is now reviewing the whole trash/recycling workflow process and equipment, Tsaknopoulos said.

Changes will be made in 2016, and may include deploying new four-wheeled collection carts for EBS staff to make the process more efficient.

“The last thing we want is for people on campus to get discouraged and stop recycling,” said Suzanne Wood, sustainability and energy manager at UMass Chan. “We are committed to recycling. We do regular waste stream audits to make sure material is going into the proper compactor. And we need everyone’s help to keep recycling for us to reach our sustainability goals.”