niversity of Windsor groundskeepers are claiming the university’s commitment to the environment is little more than greenwashing.
The university’s 51 hectares is dotted with gleaming waste bins for garbage, paper and containers. While recycling from campus buildings is sent to Turtle Island Recycling, outside recyclables are sent straight to a landfill.
“What happens is the grounds guys pick up the recycling [from the containers located outside] (pictured below),” explained John Regier, custodial services and grounds manager. “We have the campus broken into zones … and staff members pick up their recycling and bring it back to the grounds garage, where we have bins set aside for each of the recycling.”
On the afternoon of June 8, however, The Lance dropped by the grounds garage located on Union Road. When groundskeepers were asked about sorting the garbage into the appropriate bins, they laughed. Jef Martin, university grounds worker, housekeeper and union steward for CUPE 1001, directed the Lance’s attention to the university’s garbage truck, where bags of pop cans, paper and green waste had been compressed in a packer along with the garbage.
“All the [recycling] containers outside, they go straight to garbage. They’re just for show,” said Martin, referring to the $1,000 outdoor metal containers. “We’ve had the new recycling stations for five years maybe … why go spend all that money, and not have the means of recycling?”
“They used to sort cans, bottles and paper, but for the last 23 years (that I’ve worked here) it all goes into that truck,” Martin said, gesturing to the garbage packer. “It hasn’t improved one bit. The only thing they recycle around here is steel because they can get money for recycling that. Everything else goes in the garbage.”
Regier said that the packer is emptied at the Essex-Windsor Solid Waste Authority’s transfer station, but that it’s used rarely. “Preferably by the end of this year I’d like to eliminate the packer if I could.”
Regier said waste management company BFI will offer recycling sorting services through a recently renewed three-year contract. He maintained the university’s recycling system is at a high standard.
“What happens is … [BFI] rips open all the bags, and they pull out the recyclable material, recycle it, and garbage the rest.”
When asked about the BFI contract, Martin said, “Yes, they’ve got those big bins around here. We throw all the recycling into those big bins, and they go into the garbage.”
Regier insisted that the university has bins at the grounds garage for recycling and garbage to be placed separately into. “Basically, [the grounds staff] are full of it. If they’re not putting the waste in the proper place, I want them disciplined for it. They have no reason; it’s all available to them. If they’re not doing it, it’s because they are choosing not to do it because they don’t care.”
Martin explained, “If [students] are putting cans, paper and cardboard all in the same box … what do I do with it? There’s no time, we don’t have the manpower for that.”
“The union is actually trying to make a problem,” Regier asserted. “[The staff] look at BFI’s secondary recycling as a loss to them. They think it’s going to take away work from them, which it doesn’t, which it’s not intended to do. It has to do with making recycling more efficient.”
Allan Matchett, major accounts manager for BFI, estimates that UWindsor pays $800 – $1,000 a month for outside waste removal, depending on the season. The latest contract renewal saw savings of about 30 per cent for the University of Windsor.
In a 2011 waste program report from EWSWA, the university produced 507,959 kg of waste 2005, but by 2010, it had been reduced to 245,232 kg. It estimates that recycling has increased from 23,529 kg in 2005 to 128,860 in 2010.
For the past five years, the university has conducted annual audits on the amount of waste, both garbage and recyclables, generated in campus buildings.
Martin said that recycling inside of buildings is better handled— the main issue is contamination. “If [students] are putting cans, paper and cardboard all in the same box … what do I do with it?” Martin asked, adding, “There’s not enough janitors to go through and [filter through the recycling].”
D.J. Strand, a housekeeper, admitted, “I worked in residence. You should see all that is not recycled. If it’s in the garbage, I won’t reach into it and recycle it.”
Last year’s waste audit sampled 72.19 kg of waste from Chrysler Hall Tower and discovered that 26.35 kg or 37 per cent should have been directed to recycling.
“The biggest issues we were having was contamination of recycling inside, and students choosing not to use the right recycling … That was our biggest problem and it still is,” said Regier.