A new expansion of the recycling program at the University of South Carolina Beaufort’s Bluffton campus could launch as early as next month, according to its organizer.
Edward D’Antonio, Ph.D., associate professor of biochemistry at USCB in Bluffton, said he is currently reviewing bids from recycling companies. The selected vendor will place rolling collection carts in buildings across campus and provide regular pickup and transport to a materials recovery facility.
“Single-stream recycling is similar to curbside recycling you may have at home,” D’Antonio said. “You can put in paper, cardboard, plastic, aluminum and glass. The recycling truck takes it to the recovery facility and it’s sorted out on a conveyor belt.”
He estimates the cost for implementing the program at USCB in Bluffton to be about $6,000 to $10,000 a year. The first six months of the program will be covered, in part, by a crowd-sourcing fundraiser D’Antonio created last summer.
The University of South Carolina’s main campus has agreed to cover the other half.
D’Antonio plans to track and compare the weight of recycled materials to the weight of regular trash for 24 months to determine if the percentage of recyclables increases significantly.
“I want to write a scientific paper on the results of this project,” he said. “Then later on, when the university is facing budget cuts, we can show evidence of how this recycling program is reducing how much we are polluting the earth.”
One of D’Antonio’s biggest supporters is the man who got the ball rolling. Norman Varnes, a custodian and groundskeeper on campus, first approached the professor to show him the contents of a single trashcan in a nearby classroom.
“It was filled with plastic,” D’Antonio said. “We have Starbucks on campus so students throw away lots of cups and plastic food containers.”
“I was surprised how much waste there was that could be recycled,” Varnes said.
D’Antonio, who is director of the campus Environmental Club, began working with Claudia Doll, student president of the club, last spring to research single-stream recycling programs. Doll has since graduated but D’Antonio continued the project.
He said it was not difficult to get the university’s administration on board.
“It was always in everyone’s best interest,” he said. “They were always very supportive.”
Also instrumental in helping him get the program off the ground were his colleagues Kathryn Madden, Dr. Eric Montie, Dr. Stephen Borgianini and Mike Parrott.
“We’re all just little pieces of the puzzle,” D’Antonio said.
Recycling is a subject that is near and dear to the professor’s heart. As a child in rural Pennsylvania, he and his brothers spent time picking up litter along the roadways.
Now, as a long-distance runner, he is still appalled at the amount of trash he sees discarded in otherwise picturesque locations.
“I want to eliminate behaviors like throwing McDonald’s bags out the window,” he said. “Good habits need to be instilled in people’s minds.”
That starts with education. D’Antonio plans to use some of the funds raised to sponsor a symposium on recycling in the spring of 2020.
Also, he would like to produce an information video, which can be looped on the college’s internal TV system.
Some of the money might be used for decals on the recycling bins. These would list acceptable items as well as those that cannot be recycled.
D’Antonio’s hope for the program is simple. “If we can get a bunch of college students to recycle, it will lower the landfill capacity from durable materials that have long half-lives and prevent them from getting into the natural environment,” he said.
“Not a lot of people in the world are recycling – it’s a pretty small percentage. Starting here might trigger other places, such as local schools, to start similar programs,” he said. “I want to make a change right here where I live.”
Laura Gray is a freelancer who writes about many subjects in the Lowcountry.