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Recycling efforts proceed slowly

By Raymie Stata

Little has been done to develop an MIT paper recycling program since the idea was proposed last spring by John C. Berlinquet Jr. '52, superintendent of support services and building maintenance for Physical Plant. Interest in the project remains high, however, and recycling has become a reality on campus without being an official Physical Plant program.

In August, MIT sent a letter to about 12 companies asking what kinds of materials they would take away and what the cost would be, according to Berlinquet. Most of the companies responded, but the market is very volatile and new letters need to be sent, he explained. The project continues to move slowly at Physical Plant.

Currently, most paper recycling at the Institute is done by Earthworm Inc., a non-profit recycling group which supports itself on donated waste paper. Earthworm collects paper from voluntary programs in academic buildings across the Institute, including the Sloan School of Management, the Sea Grant program and the MIT Press.

This summer Earthworm submitted a proposal to Physical Plant for an Institute-wide paper recycling program, but Physical Plant has yet to respond.

Meanwhile, the number of independent recycling programs through Earthworm has continued to increase. "We currently have over a dozen stops throughout the Institute, and we're adding piecemeal about one stop per year, " Earthworm employee Adam Mitchell said. Earthworm will take about 15 tons of waste paper from the Institute this year, he noted.

Students have also started independent recycling programs. Alpha Phi Omega collects waste paper from Project Athena clusters and gives it to Earthworm. Pika, an independent living group, brings its paper, aluminum and plastic waste to the Wellesley Recycling Center. Elizabeth Morgan '92, pika's recycling co-chair, says that recycling has cut Pika's disposal costs 40 percent by reducing garbage pickups, and has been easy to implement. "Pika has found recycling surprisingly easy. Throwing things into five garbage cans is just as easy as throwing them into one." Other ILGs have also expressed interest in starting similar programs.

Members of the environmental issues group Share a Vital Earth (SAVE) want recycling on a broader basis at the Institute, feeling that most people at MIT are ready to recycle their paper. Last month, the group promoted recycling at a table in Lobby 7 and, according to Jennifer Jablonski '91, "people would come up to the table to tell us that there needs to be a program. There's no doubt that people will use the program -- not much work needs to be done about promotion." SAVE is currently sponsoring a petition to encourage the Institute to begin a recycling program.