Plastic Waste at MC Lacks Distinct Recycling Policy

The dumpsters for carboard/paper, glass and regular waste are located near the parking garage along with a white dumpster that professor Dart Westphal says is not being used. It was intended for sorting plastic waste to be recycled, but there is no process for sorting plastics out from the rest of the waste. JILLEENBARRETT/COURTESY

By Jilleen Barrett, Senior Writer

According to the New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY), colleges and schools in the five boroughs are supposed to recycle metal, glass, cartons, paper and cardboard in separate bins. Hazardous waste is to be disposed of separately.

The process of recycling at Manhattan College starts with students, then becomes the responsibility of Aramark, which handles dining and facilities services at the college, and finally gets finished by the DSNY.

Aramark handles the beginning of the process when it comes to getting rid of waste at the college but handles waste from food services on campus separately than from other college facilities.

Richard McKeown is in charge of technical waste management at the college and described how the recycling process is supposed to work. 

He said that the college sorts each type of waste by providing different colored garbage bags for each type of trash. Black is for regular garbage, blue is for glass and clear is for paper and cardboard. 

After trash gets thrown in the corresponding bags, they are taken to one of the three large dumpsters by the parking garage. Like the colored bags, each dumpster is designated specifically for a certain kind of trash.

Dart Westphal, an adjunct professor of urban studies, told The Quadrangle that there actually is a fourth bin near the garage that is specifically for plastics. It was placed there so the school could start sorting out plastics before they went to the sanitation department, so it would be ensured that they would get recycled.

The problem is that there is no official process for recycling plastics at the college, so they just don’t get recycled.

“They just haven’t figured out how to fill [the white dumpster] up,” Westphal said. 

Because of this, Westphal feels that the school not successfully recycling plastics doesn’t fall on the students or community because there is no process for recycling them anyway.

“If they [the MC community] were source separating perfectly, it still wouldn’t get recycled because it all goes in the same bin,” Westphal said. “So it’s minorly on the students in my opinion.”

When it comes to food services, a third-party company called Waste Management comes to the college three times a week to collect waste sorted by Aramark. 

According to Edward Gomez, a general manager of dining facilities at the college who is an employee of Aramark, “Dining recycles metal cans, glass and plastic containers, cardboard and paper.”

McKeown ensures materials that include waste with mercury will be recycled. This includes fluorescent lamps, batteries, computers, printers and more. He oversees that all of these materials are shipped in boxes to a separate company.

From there, McKeown says that they receive confirmation that the materials have been, “dismantled and redistributed back into industry, so the materials can be reused again, and they don’t go into landfills.”

McKeown also mentioned that metals get recycled, and that the college has recently had excess of the material to recycle due to construction occurring on campus.

“[Metals] are picked up and they’re shipped out either to a scrap yard, or at some point they may go out from the contractor who’s doing a particular job on campus and that’s part of their scope of work,” McKeown said.

When it comes to more common, everyday waste, students, faculty, staff and anyone else in the college’s buildings are asked to throw certain kinds of garbage into the correct bin in order for it to get recycled. Sanitation and facilities workers at MC, McKeown said, are not going through each bag of trash to ensure it is properly sorted.

Some of food and other waste from dining services ends up behind Thomas Hall, where Locke’s Loft is located. JILLEENBARRETT/COURTESY

Raymond Martinez, facilities director of non-technical services, spoke about the duty for students and staff to properly recycle materials in the correct bins. 

“We rely heavily on the students and staff to separate [trash] before it goes into each one of the individual containers,” Martinez said. “Once it goes into those containers, that’s the end of the sorting process. Our staff brings it down here … [and] we’ll put it in the associated bin for the [New York City] sanitation department to collect.”

The only type of trash not mentioned in the recycling process for facilities is plastics as there is no colored bag specifically meant for them, even though there are garbage cans labeled “plastic” in various spots on campus. McKeown says he is “not 100 percent sure” of whether or not the New York City Department of Sanitation is sorting out the plastic items within the three large dumpsters. Like the colored bags, there is no specific dumpster being used specifically for plastic waste at the moment.