By Nyah Jordan and Alex LaSalvia
Boston University continued its move-in cardboard recycling initiative, which was created to mitigate improper disposal of all of the boxes students go through while moving in, for its eighth year this fall.
The initiative was started by [email protected] in 2012 and works through a collaboration with Campus Planning & Operations, Custodial Services, Residence Life, Housing, the Boston University Police Department, the University’s recycling vendor and the Scarlet Squad. BU has recycled over 170 tons of cardboard as of 2017.
Lisa Tornatore, the sustainability director for [email protected], said the program was started because a lot of waste is created during the move-in process.
“During move-in period and move-out period people get rid of a lot of things and it’s really important for us to mitigate where that waste goes, mitigate how much waste there is, and divert that to the right place,” Tornatore said. “Specifically during move-in weekend, cardboard is a huge part of our waste stream.”
Quinn Chappelle, a sophomore in the College of General Studies, is a part of Scarlet Squad, a group of upperclassmen who assist students and parents during move-in, and she said she believes that the cardboard initiative was a great way to spread awareness of BU’s recycling practices.
“I think it’s great. A lot of people throw away their cardboard because they don’t realize where recycling is on campus,” Chappelle said. “I think by having this initiative taking place and having it be so open, not only helps the student who wants to use this, but actually allows other people to see how much BU is controlling it until it being sustainable.”
It takes a lot of effort to coordinate with all of the different BU organizations needed to make the recycling initiative happen, Tornatore said.
The program works closely with many campus organizations such as Facilities and Campus Planning, Housing and Residence Life, which let sustainability know where students are moving in, Parking and Transportation Services, which reserves spaces for recycling stations, and the recycling vendor, Save That Stuff, which picks up cardboard at least once a day from all of the stations.
“For us to be able to collect between 20 and 30 tons of cardboard every year, it really is a team effort,” Tornatore said. “It’s really all hands on deck.”
Tornatore said cardboard recycling is mandated by the state of Massachusetts and BU is at risk of getting fined if cardboard is not disposed correctly.
“In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” Tornatore said, “recycling cardboard is a mandate, so it’s really important for us to make sure that our cardboard is recycled and it’s kept out of the trash dumpsters.”
Yasmine Sabri, a junior in Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Services and a resident of Bay State Road, was not aware of the initiative and thought there could be a better job of providing places to put the cardboard.
“I guess there could have been more places,” Sabri said. “We were walking with the cardboard box last night and we couldn’t find any place to put it.”
Sabri said that having places for the cardboard to go is definitely helpful to the environment, but the lack of accessibility to the fenced in boxes on Bay State Road made it difficult to participate.
Taylor Whitefield, a graduate student and a resident of Bay State Road, supports the idea of BU supporting recycling cardboard during move-in, but she had never heard of the initiative.
“I am glad that BU is becoming more green and doing more work towards sustainability,” Whitefield said. “I think if they were to get the word out, it would be a good turnout and a lot of people would get involved.”
In 2006, BU only had a waste diversion of three percent, according to Campus Planning and Operations. However, with initiatives like the move-in cardboard recycling, BU has improved its waste diversion from three to 30 percent.
Tornatore said the numbers for this year’s recycling initiative have not come in yet, but she expects them to be similar to the trend of the past few years.
The amount of cardboard recycled through this initiative has generally increased by small amounts every year. Tornatore said she believes this is not a result of increased awareness but the result of a societal trend towards more consumption as a result of the current economy and convenience of online shopping.
“People have access to buy things really quickly and easily from their mobile devices without really thinking about the consequences of whether or not those items are really necessary or whether or not those items create waste for someone else,” Tornatore said.
The university is also working to combat this culture of consumption by providing access to reusable containers, Tornatore said.
“The university does have a partnership with the UPS Store and students don’t have to use cardboard boxes with UPS, they can actually use reusable totes,” Tornatore said.
Tornatore wants students to be more aware of how much waste they are generating.
“I think it’s really important for our community to know that consumption happens and it’s unfortunate but I think every year consumption is going up,” Tornatore said. “People are buying more things, they’re bringing more things to campus.”