In an effort to keep the MIT community informed about recycling in general and white-paper recycling in particular, Jennifer Combs, environmental coordinator for Physical Plant, answers some frequently asked questions.
Q: How can I find information about MIT's recycling program?
For information on recycling white paper, corrugated cardboard, newspaper, phone books, file stock and commingled materials (plastic #1 and #2, glass and aluminum containers), see Physical Plant's recycling Web site. The page also has tips on waste reduction. Those with questions may also contact Ms. Combs at x3-7671, <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Q: Is the white paper we put into containers really being recycled?
Some people who've watched custodians emptying office trash baskets might think the paper from the recycling baskets is being thrown together with regular garbage. This is because the custodial carts were designed to carry only one barrel, so many custodians keep a separate transparent bag for recycling material inside the trash barrel. Thus, when they empty the recycling basket, it looks as though they're pouring the contents into the same container as the garbage. Employees should feel free to ask custodians if they're not sure, or send e-mail to <email@example.com>.
Austin Petzke, manager of building services, noted that custodians do discard the white paper if it is contaminated with nonrecyclable material.
Q: What is acceptable in the recycling containers?
White-paper recycling bins are for white office paper only. White paper towels, tissue, paper plates and cups should not be thrown into recycling containers. Staples attached to paper are acceptable but paper clips are not. Envelopes with clear windows are not recyclable, but those with cloudy windows are water-soluble and are acceptable. A list of materials is printed on the side of recycling containers.
Anyone who needs additional recycling containers (they are free) may contact Ms. Combs at x3-7671.
Q: How much material is being recycled at MIT?
While white-paper recycling has been dropping, the overall recycling rate has been constant at 11 percent of MIT's total garbage due to the expanded ability to recycle other materials. In February, MIT recycled 3.5 tons of white paper, three tons of commingled material, eight tons of newspaper and 3.6 tons of cardboard. In March, 5.5 tons of white paper, 3.6 tons of commingled material, 8.2 tons of newspaper and 2.6 tons of cardboard were recycled.
Q: Why is it important to recycle?
Recycling saves the Institute $80 per ton. The money saved from the program goes to expanding recycling on campus. One ton of recycled paper saves 17 trees and three cubic yards of landfill space. Also, the City of Cambridge regulations require MIT to recycle.
Anyone who wishes to become their department's recycling representative, receiving informational e-mail approximately once a month, should contact Ms. Combs.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 14, 1997.