MIT team finds that the ratio of component atoms is vital to performance.
MIT's recycling rate has slipped recently, from 17 percent in April to about 10 percent in August, and the Environmental Programs Task Force (EPTF) is seeking the help and participation of the entire campus community to reach the goal of recycling 30 percent of our waste by January 1.
"There has been a great deal of interest at MIT in our expanded recycling program, which is designed to make recycling easy by making bins widely available on campus," said Jamie Lewis Keith, managing director for environmental programs and risk management and senior counsel. "Now we need to ask everyone on campus to participate in this Institute-wide initiative in order to meet our 30 percent goal by January 1. It isn't hard to participate, but it does take community awareness to ensure that recycling is an ongoing success."
As announced in the past, the expanded program allows recycling of mixed paper, glass bottles, aluminum cans, plastics numbered one through seven (the designation is on the bottom), and food-preparation compost from several sites. Bottles, cans and plastics must be empty, but don't need to be washed out.
In terms of tonnage, paper represents the largest of these recyclable commodities, so community members are asked to put all paper waste -- other than the very few excluded types -- in the recycling bins, rather than in the trash.
The kinds of paper that can be recycled in either the gray, desk-side bins (regardless of what the labels on the bin say), or in the paper recycling bins with blue tops in common areas across the campus are: all white or colored office papers (with or without staples), computer printouts, envelopes, (remove metal clasps first), newspapers, glossy paper, magazines, catalogs, phonebooks, post-it notes and memos, carbonless forms, small pieces of cardboard and file folders (with metal bands removed).
Large cardboard boxes should be flattened and placed beside a paper recycling bin. Styrofoam packing materials should be saved for reuse or discarded in the trash.
The only paper products that cannot be placed in the paper recycling bins are hardcover books, carbon paper, paper in which food has been wrapped, coffee cups, juice cartons, paper towels, napkins and paper plates. Even though some of these products might be biodegradable, they are not recyclable in the MIT program and may contaminate whole batches of correctly recycled papers.
While collecting trash, custodians empty desk-side recycling bins if they are full. Custodial carts are equipped with a single bin containing two separate bags, a gray one for trash and a clear bag for recycled paper. The larger bins for commingled recyclables (cans, bottles and plastics) in common areas around campus are emptied by custodians when they are full.
Several changes are under way to make recycling more convenient for the custodial staff. Instead of having to transport the bags with recyclables to a few special collection points, custodians will soon be able to leave them in more locations. Grounds Services workers Gus Carita and Bob Silva, whose work will focus primarily on supporting recycling, will pick up the recyclables from the collection points. In addition, they will soon begin using a vehicle powered by natural gas to pick up recyclables daily and deliver them to a central location, where an outside vendor will collect them.
Community members with questions about the program should contact Kevin Healy, recycling coordinator in Facilities, at email@example.com or x3-6360.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on October 25, 2000.