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Institute To Step Up Its Recycling Efforts

Student Group Petitions for Additional Bins

By Naveen Sunkavally

Years after MIT’s student environmental organization, Share a Vital Earth (SAVE), first began lobbying to have recycling bins put in all across campus, MIT will install them months before a worldwide environmental conference to be held in January.

“The recycling plan that has been devised ... will place companion recycling containers for mixed paper and comingled goods next to all indoor common area trash containers” in December, said Jamie Lewis Keith, managing director for environmental programs and risk management. “The plan also will place companion recycling containers for comingled goods next to all outdoor trash cans.”

A survey by members of SAVE identified 206 indoor and 125 outdoor garbage cans that needed companion recycling bins, Keith said.

Bins long planned

“We’ve been trying to pressure the administration for about seven years, probably even longer, to put in recycling bins,” said Eleanor S. Kane ’00, a former president of SAVE. “What happened in the end was that MIT started to get really worried about them not looking environmental because in January there’s a conference [where people] are expecting MIT to be on the cutting edge,” she said.

The conference in January is being held by the Alliance for Global Sustainability, which consists of MIT, the Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology, and the University of Tokyo. The three institutions switch off holding conferences every year, and the year 2000 conference, to be held at MIT, will explore ways to link research results to action.

Professor of Chemistry Jeffrey I. Steinfeld, who is involved in the conference, said, “many heavy hitters in the field of environmental science, policy, and technology, are coming to this conference ... it’s downright embarrassing when they come here and we haven’t made use of our knowledge and insights to improve our own campus operations.”

At one point, Facilities removed recycling bins that SAVE had put in place, said SAVE President Erik C. Snowberg ’99. The new recycling bins that are being put in went through “about 12 different committees” to finalize the specifications of the containers, he said.

“Basically, the more convenient it is, the more students recycle,” said Snowberg.

Keith hired during summer

MIT hired Keith, a lawyer, to carry out environmental operations in preparation for the conference and beyond, during the summer.

“My role at MIT is a new one. I was hired to coordinate the efforts of many people among the faculty, staff and student body,” said Keith. In the past, MIT was a very decentralized place where individual efforts didn’t lead to results. “To achieve practical results on important environmental policies such as recycling, cooperative efforts are more effective.”

Keith said that in the past MIT was not heavily staffed to deal with environmental issues.

Moving onwards

Keith has formed a committee including students that meets every two weeks to coordinate implementing environmental issues on campus.

In addition to working on the logistics of placing containers across campus, SAVE is working on compliance issues with the State of Massachusetts, which recently mandated that all cathode ray tubes are to be recycled. “MIT throws away lots of monitors,” said Kane.

“SAVE’s contributions of knowledge and labor have been invaluable, and I look forward to their ongoing participation,” said Keith.