Kara Horton '07 and Charlotte McIntosh '07 wanted more recyclables going into the blue bins across campus. The environmental studies and political science dual majors made this goal the crux of their Senior Integrative Experience and set out to get more people on campus to recycle, as well as encourage those who already recycle to contribute more products.
In addition to educating the campus about the merits of reusing products, they explored ways to streamline the dorm recycling system, including the possibility of converting the campus to single stream collection, where recyclable paper and containers (metal, glass and plastic) are collected together.
“Our hope is that we can incorporate a wide variety of ideas and methods into our existing system on campus that will allow people to recycle more, said McIntosh at the time.
To understand the process firsthand, Horton and McIntosh traveled to Casella Waste Systems in Stanley with their adviser Assistant Professor Anne Wibiralske. While touring the 68,000-square-foot processing center and watching the automated method of sorting and separating commingled paper, cardboard, cans, glass and plastic bottles, they learned about the many advantages of single stream collection for local communities.
“This is incredible, said McIntosh, standing below the conveyor belt feeding the recycled products under a magnet that pulled all steel cans from the pile.
From Stephen Klemann, tour guide and marketing manager for Casella, they learned that municipalities switching to single stream collection have witnessed increases in the volume of recovered materials and in recycling participation, and reductions in the amount of items going to the landfill, and in collection costs. These are the very things the two seniors hoped to bring to the Hobart and William Smith campus.
Back on campus they surveyed blue bins in the residence halls and collaborated with Campus Greens to test new bin systems in several dorms. They also met with the housekeeping staff supervisors to better understand the logistics the housekeeping staff balance in removing recycling and trash from the dorms and other buildings on campus. Changes to the dorm recycling system need to be workable for students and housekeeping staff as well as mesh with the new recycling facility run by Casella. In addition, the seniors racked up hours at their computers and in the library examining national opinions on recycling and the social and political issues surrounding recycling.
Wibiralske passionately supported their project. “The ramifications of just one piece of their research” converting the campus to single source collection could have far reaching, long-term impacts that can benefit Hobart and William Smith and the greater Geneva community, she said. “Their project can aid the campus in becoming a greener environment and demonstrate how collaborative approaches – in this case among students, housekeeping and facilities management staff, and managers at Casella's recycling center – can bring about lasting solutions.”