Harvard waste management officials saw a large drop in trash pickup in January, which, combined with increased rates of recycling, have them optimistic about the direction of the University’s waste disposal efforts.
Supervisor of Waste Management Robert Gogan said January trash pickup fell 9 percent over the same month a year ago. While part of that may be due to the weather keeping building personnel busy clearing sidewalks rather than disposing of trash, Gogan said the expected uptick in February didn’t make up for the difference, putting the University down a half a percentage point for the year by the end of February.
That slight decline in trash generation coincided with an increase in recycling of about 2.5 percent. While modest, Gogan said the increase brings Harvard to 42.37 percent recycling, up from 38 percent for 2004 and nearing Gogan’s goal of having the University recycle 50 percent of its trash by the end of 2005.
“We’re definitely moving in the right direction,” Gogan said. “We’re not moving as fast as I’d like, but this is a big ship and big ships turn slowly.”
Though the amount recycled is still rising, Gogan said it might be tough to hit 50 percent by the end of the year. There are still several opportunities to make a large impact, however, he said. One of the largest occurs every spring when students leave for the summer and dispose of accumulated debris.
This presents a huge opportunity to recycle more, Gogan said, and can impact year-end results. Recycling can be even easier than throwing things away, Gogan said, as the large, wheeled recycling barrels can hold 96 gallons and just be wheeled away. In addition, he said, mixed paper types – but no food containers or personal hygiene products – can now also be recycled together.
“Recycling can be even easier than cleaning out this trash,” Gogan said.
Recyclemania, a nationwide recycling competition involving 48 schools, also helps motivate students, Gogan said. Harvard is ahead of Tufts, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Boston College in recycled pounds per capita, but behind Tufts in overall recycling rate. Though the University is showing well against local schools, Gogan said students really pay attention to how we’re doing against a certain Connecticut school.
“Students only really care how we’re doing against Yale,” Gogan said. “And we’re beating the dickens out of Yale in both categories.”