New program aims to help students recycle

BY NEIL TAMBE
For the Daily
Published October 12, 2005

Making a difference for the environment is getting even easier in Ann Arbor, thanks to a coalition that advocates recycling to students who live off-campus.

The RecyclePlus program was launched yesterday at a press conference hosted by the Ecology Center and Recycle Ann Arbor, two local non-profit organizations involved in regional environmental issues. RecyclePlus is teaming up with 15 local student-housing management companies to provide ample numbers of recycling bins to residents as well as information on how to recycle properly. The organizers of the program hope to recruit more housing companies to participate in the near future.

Recycling is a free service to Ann Arbor residents, but many students fail to recycle. Mae Stevens, community organizer for the Ecology Center, encourages students to call their landlords directly and tell them they wish to participate in a recycling program.

"Major (housing) companies are disinterested in (RecyclePlus)," Stevens said. But she added that she believes if students express interest in recycling to their landlords, the companies will respond favorably. In fact, Ann Arbor law requires that "management companies have to provide the opportunity to recycle," she added.

Stevens said Ann Arbor is one of the nation's top-10 recycling towns, with a local goverment that is very supportive of environmental issues. For example, 53 percent of all waste in Ann Arbor ends up bound for recycling facilties instead of landfills. But in the off-campus student community, recycling rates hover between 25 and 45 percent.

"I'd like to see (student recycling) get better," said Ron Buhro, director of maintenance at Madison Property Company. Madison, one of the housing companies partnering with RecyclePlus, is taking extra steps to help its tenants recycle. The company will provide bins to its residents as well as informational flyers to clarify all the details that hinder the recycling effort.

Some of those details include confusion about procedure or a lack of bins, but Buhro said just taking the bins curbside is the major problem. Buhro explained that all students have to do is put materials in the container, take the containers to the curb, and bring them back for others to use. "It's pretty much that simple," he said.

Some students who live off campus, like LSA sophomore Katherine Gorman, already are dilligent recyclers. Gorman, who now lives in a house, went out of her way to find a landlord who made it easy for her to recycle. Her house has a room for recyclables as well as posters and signs to help her and her roommates remember to be eco-friendly.

Gorman, who also spoke at the press conference, said she believes a lack of accessibility is the primary reason students have difficulties when trying to recycle. "Most places have the bins, but you have to go get to them," she said.

Danny Cohen, an LSA sophomore who lives on Arbor Street, says he and his housemates have the bins they need, but often forget to take them to the curb. "It's terribly simple - if you remember," said Cohen, who added that he does care very much about recycling.

Cohen said his landlord never told him about recycling, and that he was actually informed about proper procedure by the last tenant who lived in his house. Cohen also expressed the need for literature from landlords educating and reminding renters about recycling.

Other students expressed similar sentiments. "I think we need more information for what we can do. I know what to do at home, but I don't know how things work in Ann Arbor," said LSA junior Jeff Hicks, who lives on Church Street.

According to the program's supporters, the outcome of the program looks promising. "If (tenants) have better accessibility, recycling would skyrocket," Gorman said.

Rachel Steel, a Program in the Environment senior and Ecology Center intern, also believes in the potential of the program. "(Recycling) is a really easy way to make an impact on the environment," she said.