Rhodes Grows Ever Greener with New Recycling Program

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Publication Date: 8/22/2006

Barret Library
The Recycling Work Group has determined new procedures and resources to improve recycling at Rhodes.

Rhodes is a place where students make a difference. The most noticeable recent evidence of this fact is the new campus recycling program that begins with the 2006-07 academic year.

The impetus came from a meticulously researched petition drive circulated last spring by the student group Earth Justice. The 73-page petition, which contained a detailed analysis of the problems inherent in the old system, was signed by more than 1400 campus community members, including students, faculty and staff.

President Troutt’s response was to appoint a Recycling Work Group (RWG) to study the issue and report back to him with a recommendation for addressing the issues identified in the petition. The RWG was chaired by Tracy Adkisson ’95, who is associate director of the Physical Plant department, a member of the Student Services Reengineering Design and Implementation Team (SSRDI) and chair of the Environmental Planning Cooperative (EPC). Group members were Matthew Breeden ’08 and Megan Colnar ’08 who represented Earth Justice; recycling volunteer Dorothy Brownyard, who is also director of operations in Admissions and a member of the SSRDI; Mark Fleming, assistant superintendent of Housekeeping; Michelle Green ’08, a member of the EPC and the Rhodes Student Associate who was responsible for recycling; housekeeper Linda Smith; and recycling volunteers Judy Pierce of Rhodes CARES and Judith Rutschman of Information Technology Services.

The group met throughout the summer, basing its work on the techniques that are working successfully for the SSRDI. “We reviewed the petition and came to a consensus about our goal, which was to propose a better way of doing recycling at Rhodes,” according to the report (DOC) which was issued in early August. “We did not adopt the demands from the petition as our goals. We all quickly agreed that while the petition was useful for identifying some of the problems with recycling, the college would be better served if the team itself, composed of individuals all having a unique, firsthand perspective on the problems, created a solution.”

The group organized its work around these agreed-upon desired outcomes:

  1. Rhodes College provides to its community members information, education, and training to foster participation in recycling through internal and external collaboration.
  2. Paid recycling staff are responsible for recycling pickup on demand at an appropriate frequency upon notification from volunteers.
  3. Recycling bins are ample in quantity, conveniently located and grouped, easily identifiable and accessible, consistent in appearance, and achieve maximum usage with no contamination.
  4. Rhodes has a dedicated recycling center that is accessible and appropriately housed and located.

To achieve the outcomes, the following will be implemented:

A new recycling procedure, which encompasses both volunteers and paid staffers, will ensure that the beefed-up effort is successful. In academic and administrative buildings, volunteers will check the recycling bins daily and will report via the online work order system when a bin needs to be emptied. RAs will perform this service in residence halls. The recycling staff will comprise Rhodes Student Associate Lucas Worth ’09 and environmental assistant Camille Smith ’09 who will work three days each week. Their routine will be to report to Physical Plant at an appointed time on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, pick up work orders and a vehicle and drive to the identified sites to empty and return containers.

Rhodes has committed $33,000 to supplement the $12,800 raised by Earth Justice to purchase new recycling bins to be located adjacent to trash cans to comprise waste disposal stations.

“I am very excited about this giant leap forward,” says Adkisson. “Not only does it add the capability of recycling plastic, it pretty effectively removes barriers to recycling by making it easier to participate than not.

“And this is not our only green good news. We now purchase green power, which, according to Memphis Light Gas and Water, over a one-year period will have the same environmental benefits as recycling more than 1.2 million aluminum cans, planting 85 acres of trees, recycling 74 tons of newspaper or not driving your car for 27 ½ years. Our award-winning bike program is flourishing in its new location on the east side of Robinson, and the program will be purchasing more bicycles this fall. And there will be more developments on the environmental front. From natural lighting to battery recycling, from a conservation campaign to native plantings, Rhodes will continue to make great strides in operations, programming and education about environmental issues.”

President Troutt is as pleased about the process as the outcome. “One of our primary initiatives at the moment is to make our community even more student-centered, and I think that the Work Group’s response to the petition is a wonderful example of student centeredness. And, of course, our overall goal is to graduate students who have the ability to translate academic study and personal concern into effective leadership and action. Megan, Matthew and Michelle very ably demonstrated their ability to do just that. I couldn’t be more pleased.”