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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Bottles in Compost Wastes Effort

Despite its industrial demeanor, UMB gushes green. From the Master Plan to recycling receptacles placed at all corners of campus, administrators burble about their efforts to make UMB an environmentally friendly campus. Even the curriculums on campus incorporate classes on sustainability.

Practically, recycling efforts on campus take extra time and manpower. And it all would be for naught without a bit of attention to detail from people like Mikel Damus.

“I check the trash every half hour. If I don’t, it’ll pile up and overflow. That’s a headache . . . then I chuck it down the chute and it goes into the basement. We sort it out when it gets down there,” Damus said.

In a nook at the back of the cafeteria, behind an egg-white door, stand three steel chutes, each labeled with the same etched plastic signs sported by the trashcans in the cafeteria: Compost, Recycling, Trash. Damus dumps his bi-hourly loads into these receptacles, sending the bags behind the bookstore and down to three garbage bins on the Lower Level by a loading dock.

Cafeteria trash accounts for a fraction of the waste at UMB. Paper, bottles and cans (glass/metal/plastics # 1-7), cardboard, and composting are some of the main items separated on campus that is then sent to recycling plants. Not forgetting, there’s also oil and paint needing to be drained and deposed of correctly.

“I’ll tell you, I wish I was making the money off of it, between the oil drained out of the cans, and between the bottles and even the cardboard. You can make a lot of money from that stuff,” Damus said.

After the recyclable items are collected, weekly, monthly, or whenever the trash barrels at the loading dock are full, recycling and composting vendors pick them up. These trash tycoons have their own motivations explained Aditi Pain, the manager of the Recycling/Sustainability Program at UMB, or UMBe Green.

“They have their own markets for reuse or environmentally-responsible disposal,” she said.

Since signing the Talloires Declaration (ulsf.org) in the 1990s greenness increasingly became UMB’s mantra. Because of efforts in green building, green purchasing, green dining, recycling, composting, energy conservation and retrofit efforts, innovative green technology, eco-friendly printing and transportation options, the University received the Sustainable University of the Year award in 2004. UMB also joined over 600 campuses nationwide demonstrating a commitment to the environment by signing the ACUPCC Climate Commitment in 2007.

“We recycle small office electronic waste and toner cartridges as well. A successful compostable dinnerware program with campus dining has been in place over the past four years, and we are trying to move towards a zero-waste dining experience at UMB,” Pain said.

But without students’ commitment to conservation and recycling, UMB’s sustainability program would be a failure. Through taking on internships, participating in clean-ups, or joining the sustainability club, students are providing input for Master Planning and other campus-wide committees. The University annually celebrates Earth Day and other sustainability events, where UMB students continue making a difference by protecting the environment.

“I would urge everyone to keep participating in making our campus greener. So do recycle, take a moment to compost your dining wastes, take advantage of our re-useable cup discount and organic and Fair Trade beverages, help support renewable energy via student opt-in fees, and be aware of and help conserve energy and get the word out by volunteering or interning with the UMBe Green program,” said Pain.

Another UMB department contracts out the core recycling/cleaning manpower working with people like Damus. They also handle all of the large computer and electronic waste recycling, hazardous/lab or universal waste.

Sudexo not only provides the food for the students but is hired to take care of a vast majority of the University waste also. One reason for this choice-the Sudexo Director of Retail Operations at UMB, Steve Westergren, said-is their shared commitment to green technology, and manufacturing.

“We as a company are really into recycling. It’s part of our corporate philosophy. We’ve been steadily switching to more bio-friendly products. Our detergent comes in blocks now, so we’re not using bottles,” said Westergren.

Sudexo monitors every step of the waste disposal process in the Cafeteria. Even the dishwashing soaps are biodegradable; the ultimate goal is to stop using unrecyclable plastics all together.

“We use Bio-Bags for the compost. I want to say they’re made from corn, but I’m not sure,” Westergren said.

Since the UMBe Green program started, University recycling efforts have gone from under 9% to about 40% Pain said. Right now, Damus and his co-workers collect more than 500,000 lbs of recyclables a year. But Pain pointed out, in order for the program to be successful, everyone using the campus facilities needs to contribute.

“Given the breadth of our comprehensive recycling collection and campus-wide sustainability efforts, versus other colleges and universities, this is something all UMass Boston students should be proud of! This would not be successful without their participation on campus,” Pain said.

About the Contributor
Caleb Nelson served as the following positions for The Mass Media the following years: Editor-in-Chief: Fall 2010; 2010-2011; Fall 2011 News Editor: Spring 2009; 2009-2010