Green Committee Minutes of November 3, 2008
In attendance: Ray Bailey (MA), Kathy Wax (AL), Nancy Wyatt (MA), Callan Bentley (AN), Ruth Stanton (MEC), Kathleen Odige (MEC), Denny May (AL), Doug Boe (WO), Bill Chamberlain, Victor Zabielski (AL), Mitch Markon (LO), and Sandy Payne (LO).
The meeting began at 3:30pm with a review of the minutes from the October 20, 2008 meeting’s minutes. The minutes were approved by acclamation with two minor corrections. Philosophically, the committee agreed that minutes should be of the detailed rather than “bare bones” variety.
The committee focused on recycling for this meeting, beginning with a review of contract information from Bill Chamberlain, who took over this duty for Ed Mellon, who was involved in an automobile accident en route to the meeting. Bill noted that the contract with AAA expired some time ago, but the relationship still exists (we pay them; they pick up the paper). A new contract will be going out to bid at the end of November. The new contract will cover all the campuses except for Annandale and Medical Education. For these two campuses (both located in Fairfax County, VA), Fairfax County will take over. The County will set up AN and MEC with a complete recycling program. According to Bill, they will provide all containers and pickup, based on a Memorandum of Understanding that is currently being drawn up between Bill’s office and the County’s office. It will be a single-stream system (comingled recyclables) which will then be sorted out by the county at a MERF. Bill noted that the cost will be half what we were paying AAA, and that the program will be more comprehensive, just like private residences in Fairfax County have. It was noted that the County also collects at places like George Mason University and Fairfax County municipal facilities. Bill let the committee know that pickups will start in January.
It was noted that the VHI contract has also expired. The janitorial contract (currently Sanitors) is also currently out to bid. This is a College-wide contract. Though there is a general statement in the contract (“follow all recycling procedures established by the College”), Bill said that we would need an addendum to the contract to ensure that the new janitorial contractor treat the recycling as a priority. There was general confusion about why white paper has been picked up in the past, in spite of no contract whatsoever.
Next, chairman Ray Bailey introduced Mitch Markon and Sandy Payne, saying that the Loudoun example has helped to spur how we need to reexamine the issue of recycling. Mitch and Sandy described their operation, which recycles all paper (white, computer, cardboard, folders, booklets, pamphlets, etc.). They provided a blue recycling bin for each office, and tall, narrow bins near the copiers. In the cafeteria, they placed additional containers for beverage containers. Mitch and Sandy labeled and distributed all the recycling containers, and accompanied each container with a handout (listing what can and cannot be recycled) and an “Earth” design stress-ball. Their interpretation of their cleaning contract was that they could expect the janitorial contractors to do recycling. The used the phrase in the contract that the contractors would “follow all recycling procedures established by the College” to ask their contractors to begin emptying the recycling containers and taking the collected material to the ‘toters’ (outdoor recycling collection vessels). Mitch and Sandy kept in communication with the contractors to verify that the program was working and that it wasn’t impacting the contractors’ other duties. The two NOVA employees also made sure to notify faculty that if they used the recycling containers as trash cans, the janitorial contractors were instructed not to empty the containers.
Mitch and Sandy addressed costs: it cost a little bit to get it going. $152 / month is the cost of rental of 10 toters and their pickup once a week. The actual containers cost $6.20 each, which brought the bill for the entire campus’ containers, the labels, the group containers and beverage recycling containers to about $2000, “$2500 tops.” It was noted that it is a smaller cash outlay to add more toters, versus scheduling more frequent pickups. Mitch and Sandy got this money from their copy chargeback: They pointed out that we lease copiers with fixed end variables. “We pay to get the paper here, we pay to put an image on it, we pay to have it taken away,” Mitch said. (He also noted that they set their copiers to do two-sided copies as the default setting.)
NOVA Manassas Business Manager Nancy Wyatt remarked that her campus was using the same company, but at Manassas they are only collecting paper. The Manassas campus was unaware they could have beverage containers collected too. Mitch noted that plastic liners are acceptable in the beverage recycling containers, but that it is not a good idea to put them in the paper recycling containers, because it encourages users to think of them as trash cans.
Sandy noted that the faculty and staff were very excited about the new program, but that the students took a couple of weeks to learn the new procedure. It has all settled down now, according to Mitch and Sandy. The biggest complaint they offered is that it was difficult to communicate with the Sanitors staff due to language barriers.
Ray noted that the feedback committee members have received from faculty and students is “Why aren’t we recycling?” They all recycle at home, and are bound to do so by law. What they see is that we are not recycling the most visible things. It was noted that heat and water are costs of running an institution, and recycling is a similar “utility” in this day and age.
Victor Zabielski asked whose responsibility it was to make these changes: The business manager? The provost? Mitch replied that it varied by campus.
A brief discussion of pests associated with un-emptied beverage container recycling collection containers ensued. Mice and stinging insects were discussed.
Victor brought up the earlier-mentioned addendum on the recycling contract: Who has the authority to add such an addendum. Bill Chamberlain noted that it would have to come through his office, and that a decision would need to be made about who would bear those additional costs. He noted that his budget was just cut by 20%. He also noted that it’s a better approach to make sure it feeds the recycling waste stream to counties rather than private firms, as some of their practices are distasteful and exploitative. This would need to be specified in the contract addenda.
Ray summarized the discussion so far, prefacing it with the knowledge that there are groups evaluating how “green” college campuses are, and that our reputation is a key priority of Dr. Templin. So we now have two models for recycling: the large campus (Annandale) model, which will also be the model for MEC because they are both in Fairfax County, and the small campus model, as exemplified by Loudoun and potentially applicable to all remaining campuses. Ray pointed out that Mitch’s work had shown us that there was nothing so rigid in the contracts that we cannot adapt to it. The Loudoun example shows us that this is clearly doable. Even if costs were a limiting issue, we could replace the signage on existing containers. (Mitch noted that this was a recycling of the containers themselves!) “If we can’t do it 100%, then 80% is at least better than 50%,” Ray said. He suggested our focus be on how much better off we can be at minimal cost. “If we say that recycling is important to us, then the contractors will have it be important to them,” he noted.
Action items were then discussed: Bill will continue with drafting the Memorandum of Understanding with Fairfax County, and will share it with the committee (The Alexandria campus is particularly eager to see it, since it will potentially serve as a template for similar discussions with the City of Alexandria.), Ray will inventory the Manassas campus, Doug Boe will inventory the Woodbridge campus, and Loudoun’s Mitch and Sandy will continue setting an incredible example for the rest of us.
Briefly, we discussed Climate Change Teach-In programs (tentatively scheduled nationally for February 5), but it was agreed to put off the bulk of that discussion until the next meeting in December.
The meeting was adjourned at 4:57pm.