Recycling scrutinized

The removal of large recycling bins from most residence buildings has left the state of recycling among university building residents in limbo as Wilfrid Laurier University attempts to meet fire regulations. The 90-gallon bins are, under normal circumstances, used to collect paper recycling from smaller bins in students’ rooms and are then wheeled out for pickup by custodial staff.

“I really do feel that this is a short-term blip,” said John Will, residential services facilities co-ordinator. A long-term solution has not been determined and for the time being, bins are being placed outside of residences. Garbage cans will stay in their current locations but students will likely now be responsible for moving their recyclables from the building to the bins.

These changes could potentially aggravate existing problems with the entire recycling system on campus.

There have already been problems campus-wide in terms of proper use and sorting of recycling bins, sustainability co-ordinator Sarah English said. “Students, staff, faculty, with everyone we have a lot of issues with contamination across the whole campus.”

She said that people are not “thinking about how to sort their waste properly, it’s an ongoing problem that the sustainability office is working to address.”

Assistant vice-president of physical resources Gary Nower also questioned how the absence of bins inside of buildings would affect recycling practices.

A few options are being discussed for a solution to the problem. Issues with the bins not being suited for outdoor storage, the eyesore created by numerous large plastic bins scattered all over campus and especially vandalism all pose problems for continuing to leave the bins outside residence buildings.

“Mostly vandalism” is the problem, Nower said, “They’ve already been knocked around and emptied … if we see that happening, we’re going to pull the whole program – nobody wants that.”

According to Will, most residences other than King Street have been affected after bins were gradually removed starting Oct. 22 as a result of the fire rating of the garbage rooms in the buildings.

“The situation is that Waterloo Fire Prevention is going through our residences with a fine-toothed comb and this is an item they’ve flagged,” said Nower. “There’s nothing we can do about it other than try and work with them,” also noting that areas not covered by sprinkler systems were affected.

John Percy, public education officer at Waterloo Fire Rescue explained that the fire code is strict on large paper waste containers stored inside buildings. “Because they’re so big they do pose a potential fire hazard, it would be very easy for someone if they discarded a match or cigarette inside of them, there’s a lot of paper in that,” he said.

Nower pointed out the change of habits created for staff and students.
“How do we then get materials from inside to outside?” he asked, explaining that the change would affect custodial staff’s routine. “It’s a labour issue and it also involves the students because we need their co-operation as well.”
Beyond leaving the bins outdoors, the storage spaces in residences can be upgraded and there are other considerations. Will explained that there may be grandfather clauses that could help the situation due to the age of the buildings in question. “Many of these bins may end up going right back where they came from,” he said.

Nower said that there may be other areas of buildings that could be considered for storage or existing garbage rooms could be upgraded easily to meet regulations. “I’m most hopeful, is that we’ll be able to identify areas that we can fire rate and we can store the bins there so we don’t have to put them outside,” he said, adding that in some cases, “It could be as simple as screwing up 5/8” drywall, that’s what we’re looking at.”

In the meantime, issues could arise with students simply throwing everything in the garbage for simplicity’s sake. “I would like to think students would take the time to separate their garbage and recycling in their rooms and are going to continue with that,” Will said.

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