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Recycling begins despite city troubles

By Jeremy Hylton

A student recycling program began dropping off trash at a Cambridge recycling center last Saturday. But Cambridge does not want MIT's trash, city officials say.

The trash produced by city residents is more than the recycling center can handle, without the addition of MIT trash, said Lisa C. Peterson, assistant to the city manager. "We have not marketed it to students. It's not an audience we were particularly looking for," she said.

The student program will function only until the MIT Department of Housing and Food Services can develop a campus-wide program for recycling, said de facto head of the student program Suniti Kumar '91. The program also takes trash to the Boston Food Co-op.

The program picks up trash from 14 living groups on the second and fourth Saturday of each month. It is staffed by a group of about 40 student volunteers and some members of the Undergraduate Association.

The city of Cambridge opened the recycling center to reduce the amount of solid waste the city collects. "The purpose [of the recycling program] is to reduce the amount of overall municipally collected solid waste by separating out those items that are recyclable," Peterson said.

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The city currently pays $74 per ton, plus a tipping fee, to have its garbage removed. It is hoped that by recycling some waste, the tonnage sent to land fills will be reduced. "It's really a cost-saving mechanism," said Peterson.

Because MIT uses the Jet-A-Way hauling service to dispose of its garbage, it does not affect the amount of solid waste the city collects. "Because the Institute is a commercial enterprise, we can not use the [city's recycling] center," said John C. Berlinguet Jr., superintendent of building maintenance and recycling.

"If the intent is to reduce municipal solid waste, then the market we're targeting is people who are served by municipal waste disposal," Peterson explained. MIT needs to develop its own program to deal with recycling and waste disposal "through a private hauler," she said.

Students initiated MIT

recycling program

The Department of Housing and Food Services is studying a campus-wide program for recycling. "We are looking for a program for all of the on-campus dormitories," said Karen A. Nilsson, general manager of housing operations. She is negotiating contracts with several companies in the metropolitan Boston area. She expected to "make some decisions by the first of the year."

Nilsson cited student interest in recycling as the primary reason for beginning the program. "Students have been very conscious of concerns regarding landfills and have taken the initiative in their own living groups," she said.

Two house managers, Bailey E. Hewitt of Senior House and John P. Corcoran of East Campus, work with students on the recycling project. "They've been working with students within their houses to develop a student recycling program," Nilsson said.

The student program will contribute to problems with Cambridge's recycling program. "We're swamped. We just don't have the capacity to serve those people we were intending to serve," Peterson said. Cambridge residents have waited for more than half an hour at the center on some occasions.

Student drivers estimated that they delivered three tons of garbage to the recycling center on Saturday, said Daniel J. Dunn '94, UA liaison to the recycling program. For the whole of last month, the recycling center received approximately 64 tons of garbage.

The recycling center will not check to determine if the users of the facility are residents of Cambridge. "In reality if someone came, we wouldn't turn them away," Peterson said.

Cambridge has plans to add curbside recycling pick-ups, like those used in Brookline. This would alleviate crowding at the recycling center.

Students were aware

of possible conflict

Kumar and Amita Gupta '91 knew problems might arise with using the Cambridge center when they began the program.

"There is this sort of interesting fine line that isn't clear," Gupta said. She said employees of the recycling center said students could bring trash to be recycled. "It's not entirely illegal," she added.

"We've been aware that that might be a problem. . . . We haven't been able to find conclusive evidence either way," Dunn said.

The group decided to begin the program despite this uncertainty. "There's really no other place we can go to take stuff to be recycled without getting a contract from an outside vendor," Kumar said.

Acting Dean for Student Affairs Arthur C. Smith helps fund the program, but was unaware of any impropriety on the students' parts. "The people are responsible for their own actions. If there were some lack of awareness, we would try to negotiate with them," he said. "I wasn't aware of any legal liability we might have."

Smith provides $150 per month to pay for the two vans used to carry trash to the recycling center. He does not supervise the students' use of the vans or the program itself.

The UA started work on recycling last year. "There was a lot of [research] done on it, but then the initiative was picked up by [Kumar and Gupta]," said UA President Manish Bapna '91.

The UA renewed its association with the project a few weeks ago. The UA supplies manpower and hopes to become more involved in the future. "It's definitely a UA concern. . . . It's something that the UA really wants to do," Dunn said.

MIT may have recycling

program next year

Now MIT needs to take initiative on recycling its waste, Peterson said. The state enacted a landfill ban last year that will limit what waste can be put in landfills. By the end of 1994, glass, aluminum, some metal cans, and single polymer plastics will be banned from landfills.

"It would [be ideal] for MIT to try to negotiate with its hauler of trash right now to see if you can get recycling services," Peterson said.

Food and Housing Services plans to begin its recycling program next year. Nilsson has received two bids from outside companies and is waiting for two more.

The program will cost the food and housing department money initially, but Nilsson hopes it will save money in the long run. "If the program is successful, the tonnage that will go to a landfill will be reduced," she said. She hopes money saved in hauling costs will offset the cost of recycling.

Students involved in Saturday's recycling drive expressed satisfaction with the results. They hope to expand the program to include Boston living groups sometime in the future. But Gupta cautioned, "It would be very difficult."

The recycling program accepts newspaper, glass, aluminum, and some plastics. The program does accept white paper for recycling. But the Institute has a program for recycling white paper, according to Berlinguet.

The living groups served by the program are Alpha Delta Phi, Bexley Hall, Burton-Conner House, East Campus, 500 Memorial Drive, MacGregor House, McCormick Hall, New West Campus Houses, Number Six Club, Phi Beta Epsilon, Random Hall, Senior House, Theta Delta Chi, and the Women's Independent Living Group.