Trash talk: Union takes top recycling honor

Publication Date

When it comes to recycling, few schools can match Union’s efforts.

The College finished first overall among 363 participants in a key category of RecycleMania, a friendly competition for college and university recycling programs to promote waste reduction activities.

Union finished on top in the “Per Capita Classic,” in which schools compete to see which can collect the largest amount of recyclables per person. Union had 55.7 pounds, edging out Rutgers University, which collected 54.6 pounds. Rounding out the top five were the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering and Boston College. Union finished fifth in the category last year.

Trash audit

Now in its 11th year, RecycleMania is an eight-week challenge that tests recycling and waste-reduction efforts at more than 600 schools.

“We couldn’t have become first in the nation in recycling without everyone doing his or her part,” said Jeff Corbin, professor of biology and faculty co-chair of U Sustain, a committee made up of about 70 environmentally and socially concerned students, faculty and staff who steward the College’s sustainability initiatives.

Union may have won bragging rights (and an award made of recycled glass) but Corbin and others admit that more can be done. As part of Earth Week activities, members of U Sustain conducted their annual trash audit outside of Reamer Campus Center Tuesday afternoon.

Dressed in protective gear, about a dozen students had the unenviable task of sorting through mounds of trash collected by Facilities from every campus building. Picking through the rancid pile, students fished out a bounty of cardboard, paper, bottles and cans, plastics, and other materials that should have been recycled. Students also plucked some unusual items from the debris, including a cake pan, a plaid baseball hat and a mini New England Patriots scoreboard.

“We have done so well with recycling, but obviously there’s so much more we can be doing,” said Meghan Haley Quigley ’11, co-chair of U Sustain, along with Shabana Hoosein ’11 and Erin Delman ’12. “This is just one way we can raise awareness while also having fun.”

As Quigley spoke, Delman, clutching a microphone, implored the campus community to celebrate Earth Week.

“Reduce and reuse,” Delman shouted as passersby filed in and out of Reamer.

The RecycleMania title is the latest accolade for the College’s sustainability initiatives. Last spring, Union was included among the country’s most environmentally responsible colleges, according to The Princeton Review’s first “Guide to Green Colleges.” The free guide, produced in partnership with the U.S. Green Building Council, includes schools that have “demonstrated an above average commitment to sustainability in terms of campus infrastructure, activities and initiatives.”