Where does the recycling go?

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Image: Suzanna Price

Plunkett RA Lauren Buice using the recycling bin for her hall.

Rose Scoggins, Staff Writer

Students around campus, like junior Grace Johnson, have been asking the question: Where does the recycling at Mercer go?

Chinekwa Obidoa, Johnson’s environmental health class professor, said that they discussed the problem with recycling at Mercer in class and couldn’t find an answer as to where recyclable materials from Mercer end up.

Recycling falls under the building maintenance section of the Physical Plant’s list of duties which also include custodial services, ground maintenance and shipping and receiving.

The recycling at Mercer goes from the small recycling bins located in and outside of buildings around campus to large recycling containers located near the soccer field.

Cliff Brown, a worker at the Physical Plant Department for Mercer University, said that the recycling is processed behind Auxiliary Services here on campus.

Brown’s job is to coordinate with the Physical Plant’s vendor, Advanced Disposal, a garbage collection service, when the recycling bins on campus are full. Advanced Disposal is paid to transport the recycling from behind Aux Services to Schnitzer Steel, which sells it to different buyers.

Schnitzer has locations at lower Poplar Road and 7th Street. The 7th Street location accepts paper, glass and other materials while the lower Poplar Road location accepts large scraps, appliances and whole automobiles.

“The center was formerly the Macon Iron and Paper Stock until 2010 when Schnitzer bought us out,” said Mike Totes, a worker for Schnitzer. Before 2010, the Macon Iron and Paper Stock had been recycling since 1919.

When asked if he knew who the buyers of the recycling from Schnitzer were, Totes said, “I do, but we don’t give out that information.”

The Physical Plant Department also works with the Environmental Health and Safety Office at Mercer. The EHSO’s website provides some information on what materials can be recycled on campus, through a section of the Environmental Management Systems manual.

According to EHSO’s website, the manual was written in 2011 after the EPA conducted an audit on Mercer’s Macon and Atlanta campuses. The manual was “developed for the Macon and Atlanta campuses to complete the formal agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.”

After being developed by EHSO and the Physical Plant, it was “reviewed and endorsed by a faculty committee, the Environmental Concerns Committee,” according to the website.

The manual mentions that “individual schools, departments, and, offices that generate Solid Waste Recycling are encouraged to establish onsite storage with properly labeled containers compliant with program requirements,” hence the recycling bins placed on many different parts of campus.

“The recycling program accepts plastic, mixed paper, regular paper and cardboard,” Brown said.

The manual contains detailed information on how and what kind of each type of solid waste can be properly recycled.  Section four also contains photos of the types of recycling bins on campus, and the equipment and containers that each type of recyclable material is separated and placed into before being transferred to Schnitzer by Advanced Disposal.

For example, when it comes to cardboard, the website states “cardboard consists of brown Kraft paper, corrugated brown paper board, and brown paper boxes. No pizza boxes, cereal, cookie, oatmeal or granola boxes.”

“We get a fairly decent amount of office paper and cardboard . . . plastic, not very much,” Brown said.

Although the Physical Plant has to pay an outside vendor to recycle their materials, Brown said that recycling isn’t done for the money.

“We aren’t concerned about what it costs us to recycle. It’s about making our landfills better,” Brown said.