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CGS Goes Greener

New bottle and can recycling program cuts back on trash


The College of General Studies recently implemented a recycling program for bottles and cans. Work-study students are responsible for emptying the recycling bins; (from left) Adanta Ahanonu (CGS’08), Morgan Mooney (CGS’08), Heidi Chase (SPH’08), and Justin Breton (CGS’08). Photo by Kalman Zabarsky

Heidi Chase doesn’t believe in easing into a job. Her first task as administrative coordinator at the College of General Studies was to implement a building-wide program for bottle and can recycling — an undertaking that previous coordinators had attempted, but never accomplished.

“It seems strange that in this day and age we wouldn’t have bottle recycling,” says Chase (SPH’08). “CGS has recycled paper for years, but never bottles or cans.”

That changed in January. Students returned from winter break to find large blue 35-gallon bins located throughout the building, and they immediately began filling them. In just over a month, Chase says, the amount of trash that CGS disposes of each week has been reduced to a tenth of the previous amount. “Now that we’re recycling paper and bottles, most of what gets thrown in the garbage cans is food,” she says.

Work-study students are responsible for emptying the nine 35-gallon bins into two 95-gallon bins each week, and the Boston-based waste management company Save That Stuff collects the bottles every Tuesday. People are using the bins more with each passing week, says work-study student Andrew Metcalf (CAS’10). “I think people are finally noticing them,” he says, “because I’m having to empty them a lot more frequently. The bin on the fifth floor gets full in two days or less.”

Chase modeled CGS’s plan after the School of Education’s sedGreen committee. Established in 2006, sedGreen is comprised of students, faculty, and staff members who lobbied for a building-wide bottle, paper, and cardboard recycling program. Today, each floor of SED has recycling bins that are emptied each week by committee members.

“The bins are a constant reminder of how much waste we produce,” says Douglas Zook, an SED associate professor of science education and global ecology. “Their presence alone raises questions like, ‘Do I need to print out this article? Can’t I just reuse this water bottle?’ You could say we’re a committee working very hard to become obsolete.”

Although sedGreen is the University’s most comprehensive renewal program, nearly every one of BU’s 350 buildings participates in some form of recycling, says Mike Lyons, senior buyer at the Office of the Physical Plant. Bottles, cans, paper, and cardboard are collected in the lobbies of every large residence hall, and paper recycling is available in offices and academic departments across campus. Bottles and cans are collected at CGS, SED, the School of Management, the School of Social Work, the Fitness and Recreation Center, and the George Sherman Union.

Additionally, universal waste — such as computers, light bulbs, paint, batteries, ballasts, electronics, appliances, and metal — is collected at 120 Ashford St., and mulch and grass clippings are recycled every spring and fall. Old furniture is collected and donated to charity.

Linda Wells, the dean of CGS, compares today’s recycling movement to the antilittering campaign of the 1950s. “It just takes that initial push,” she says. “The act of recycling is all about changing a culture’s consciousness, and I think our students are very keen to do that.”

To celebrate the program’s launch, CGS plans to host a raffle with green T-shirts, eco-friendly beauty products, and reusable grocery bags sometime in the spring. “I hope that our efforts provide a model for other schools and colleges at BU,” Chase says, “because recycling is really one of the best and easiest things we can do to help the Earth.”

For more information on recycling at BU, click here, or contact Mike Lyons at 617-353-4944 or milyons@bu.edu.

Vicky Waltz can be reached at vwaltz@bu.edu.


3 Comments on CGS Goes Greener

  • Tom on 03.04.2008 at 10:34 am


    Hey, I really like this article. The recycle bins in CGS are very convenient and I use them almost on a daily basis. I didn’t realize this program started this school year. I’m hoping this will further motivate people to use the bins, and perhaps influence other schools to join in.

  • Anonymous on 03.05.2008 at 10:51 am

    We still have a long, long way to go...

    BU does a terrible job of recycling. Why is the university waiting around for student groups to do this? Let’s get those bins set up *everywhere* and integrate the collection process with facilities management.

  • Ross on 03.05.2008 at 6:17 pm

    It's time for BU to "Go Green" already

    I completely agree with the first post. That lack of recycling campus-wide at BU really bums me out. It’s awesome that students are taking the initiative and this should send a message to the higher ups that we care about the environment.

    Also it will save the school money in the long run b/c they won’t have as much waste and they can even market it that “BU is a green school.”

    Things to Fix:
    1.) The dorms should have a recycle bin for paper and plastic recycling on every floor next to the garbage bins and not make students go all the way to the basement of 13 floor dorms to recycle.
    2.) In south campus students have to walk a few blocks to the “recycling station.” More students will recycle if you put bins in every building. It’s about time BU steps it up in this regard.

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