Queens to rethink its limited recycling policy

trash and recycling bin at the coffee shop

If you throw away a plastic cup or fork at Charlotte Douglas International Airport or Bank of America Stadium, those items will be recycled. But at Queens University of Charlotte, the policy is to haul them to a landfill. 

As a standing practice, Queens only recycles paper and cardboard in the belief that recycling other materials is too costly. However, this may not be entirely true.

It could actually cost less to expand the kinds of material the campus recycles. 

Garbage that is to be recycled goes to Sonoco Recycling under a contract that Queens has with Waste Management. Susan Helms, an account manager for Waste Management, said in an interview that Queens is charged nothing for delivery of materials to Sonoco.

By comparison, Queens is charged $53 a ton for trash taken to an area landfill.

Currently, three tons of Queens’ monthly waste goes to Sonoco Recycling, where it is sorted and shipped to China to be reused. The remaining waste goes to the landfill. 

Troy Luttman, the campus architect, oversees the Queens contract that determines what is recycled.

Through email, he said he was unaware that it can be less expensive to recycle more materials. Now that he knows, he said that he plans to take the matter to the university’s senior leadership. 

“To this point, cheaper cost has not been our understanding, and I will most definitely look into it,” Luttman wrote. 

Campus Services collects the waste that is picked up by Waste Management. Atilla Szekes, former director of Campus Services, said the lack of interest in recycling among students is also a problem. For example, he felt students do a poor job of separating trash from recyclable material before putting it in the blue bins for recycling.  “The students will drive the policy and drive the culture,” he said.

Niklas Klei, an international student from Germany, finds the different colors on the bins around campus to be confusing. “I don’t know where to put what,” Klei said. “I often just bring the recyclable material back to my room instead.”  

Luttman said via email that the Queens master plan includes an “ECO pavilion” that would allow students to recycle more items, among them batteries, bulbs, glass, cell phones and computers.

 “It’s an idea that I hope will gain traction,” he said. 

Perhaps no student organization on campus has focused more on recycling than the Queens Green Team. Its members advocate for more sustainable ways to live on the Queens campus. Katrina Pitts, president of the organization, said her group has had several conversations with the Student Government Association and the school administration about how Queens can become a more eco-friendly campus, but so far has seen little change.

“An effective recycling program takes more than simply placing down bins,” said Pitts.

“Seeing how the Green Team is still a newly developed club —  this only being our third year — we have made . . . strides in improving the recycling here and are continuously working on ways to make it better,” she said.

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Published by students of Queens University of Charlotte, 1900 Selwyn Avenue, Charlotte, N.C. 28274.