Physical plant staff explains university’s recycling practices

By MJ Cadman
Staff Writer

While daydreaming in class, a student peered out of his classroom and into the hallway, where he became interested in the actions of the student custodial worker outside.  

This worker came to empty the trash. He opened the container that had different sections for trash and recyclables.  

First, he emptied the trash into a larger trash bag. Rather than continuing to the next trash can, the worker proceeded to empty the recyclables into the same large trash can.  

Perplexed, the eyewitness could not help but wonder if Franciscan’s custodial staff actually separates trash and recyclables, or if all recyclables simply get emptied into trash cans. 

Franciscan University provides blue containers around the campus for students and faculty members to recycle. However, not everyone on campus is aware of what becomes of these papers, plastics and cans when the containers are emptied.  

Dave Owens, manager of grounds, said that Franciscan has been successfully recycling  on campus for many years.  

He added that there are recycling dumpsters behind the Physical Plant building, at Antonian Hall and in the loading dock behind the J.C. Williams Center and Finnegan Fieldhouse. 

Assisi Heights used to have recycling containers in the community building, but those had to be removed, Owens said. 

“I had to take those containers away because they (employees of the garbage disposal company) must dump the containers into their truck and the power lines will not allow me to place the containers within Assisi,” Owens said. 

Across campus, paper and comingle (plastic, metal and glass) are collected in clearly marked containers, Owens said. JB Green Team, which is based in Jefferson County, empties the containers on campus and the paper goes to a facility in Toronto.  

Though it’s evident that Franciscan University does recycle, the situation is more layered than it appears. 

“Our recycling must be clean of trash,” Owens said.  

If student workers see that the recycling bins contain garbage, the “recycling” must be considered trash because it cannot be added into the recycling dumpsters, Owens said. 

Daniel Corbet, manager of custodial and safety services, works with recycling on campus and said he is aware of the rumors that Steubenville does not recycle. 

“While there is a technicality to that truth, the fact is that this rumor needs to get quashed,” Corbet said. “This technicality is that the city of Steubenville does not have a recycling facility.”  

The location has nothing to do with the university’s ability to recycle, Corbet said. 

Corbet added that he has been thinking of ways to encourage students to develop better recycling habits. 

“I am of the mindset that something needs to change on campus,” Corbet said. “I would love to get some student involvement and I think the flow of information and encouragement from a peer’s perspective would resonate better.” 

Corbet said, “The biggest change would need to be education and buy-in from everyone on campus.” 

Corbet said he is aware that trash and recyclables will still be mixed, but he wants to reduce this and will need help to do so. 

Corbet said posting easy-to-read signs near recycling bins, addressing the issue in dorm meetings and having a JB Green representative on campus on Earth Day would be beneficial. 

Corbet said, “Unfortunately, we have become a culture of convenience and all waste and recycling end up in the same bags.” 

“Here is a real example that happens too often: if we have a bag full of regular office paper and someone dumps an empty plastic Dunkin’ Donuts cup in the bag, we have to throw it all in the trash,” Corbet said. 

Corbet said if the trash-tainted recycling can is added into a recycling dumpster, the recycling company may trash the whole dumpster. 

“Dave Owens and I cannot afford to have our workers sorting through all of the recycling; there’s just too much, which is why we end up trashing the mixed bags,” Corbet added. 

Corbet provided information on common misunderstandings people make when recycling. Pizza boxes can be recycled if they are clean, Corbet said.  

“If it (a recyclable container) has touched food, it is trash,” Corbet said.  

If dirty containers are seen in a recycling bin, the whole container is considered trash, Corbet said. He added that if paper cups hold anything other than water, they are trash.  

Additionally, JB Green can only recycle certain plastics; these must be rinsed, and if they are not, they will be trashed, Corbet said. 

It is clear that the answer to the question of whether Franciscan University recycles is yes. However, cooperation from students and faculty is necessary if this effort to recycle is to be successful. 

Members of the university community are encouraged to make sure that no trash pollutes recycling containers and that food containers are rinsed before being recycled. With a little extra effort, Frannies can make St. Francis of Assisi—the nature-loving patron of the university—proud.