As the University at Buffalo continues to make strides toward a more environmentally friendly campus with programs like RecycleMania and groups like the Student Association Environmental Department, students remain skeptical of their efforts.
According to the UB Green Web site, state agencies are required by law to recycle at least 50 percent of their "solid waste stream." However, offices in the University complex recycle only 30 percent of their waste, and the Residence Halls recycle even less.
Mike Dupre, associate vice president for University Facilities and current chair of the UB Environmental Task Force, hopes to increase these numbers.
"We are working toward creating more green projects on campus to combat the recycling problems," Dupre said. "We, as a community, need to bring awareness to the issue and continue our fight toward minimizing our environmental impact."
Environmental advocate Chris Llop, director of SA Environmental, also finds the university's lack of recycling to be a serious problem.
"I can't tell you how many times I see students throwing plastic bottles, cans or paper into the trash can," Llop said. "The recycling bins are clearly labeled, yet students don't seem to care, or they don't want to take the extra time to do their part in supporting the environment."
Llop explains that once a recycling bin has been contaminated with roughly ten percent of other garbage, the janitorial staff is instructed to throw out the entire bag.
"It really upsets me when I see a janitor mixing recyclables with other garbage," said Bobbi Taylor, a senior botany major. "I try to do my part toward going green with recycling, but it feels like a wasted effort."
Even if a bin remains clean, both Llop and Taylor remain curious about whether the bag escapes the landfill and makes its way to the recycling center.
Robert McLovin, a third-year member of the janitorial staff, admits to emptying the recycling bins for his own use and taking the items to the nearest bottle return.
"On a good day, I'll collect from the bins, head over to Wegmans, and walk out with $60," McLovin said. "But lately, I haven't been doing as well. The recycling bins are empty by the time I get to them."
Llop and Dupre are unsure if the decreasing number of recyclables is due to students recycling less, or if someone else has discovered the potential profits in collecting from the bins.
Although Dupre explains that the university does not receive substantial profits from the recycling center, this doesn't stop big names on campus, like Vice President of Student Affairs Dennis Black and President John Simpson, from engaging in a little late night bin raiding.
"I was in Capen last Thursday night studying for an exam when I saw President [John] Simpson and Dennis Black come into the library. They emptied the recycling bins into a big trash bag, and then quickly ran away like giddy school girls," said Andrew Ham, a junior political science major.
Some of the duo's coworkers explain that Black and Simpson were feeling pressure from members of the campus community to decrease the university's spending and increase its available funds.
"I'm a straight shooter – UB 2020 isn't going to happen," Simpson said. "We don't have any money to do the things that we planned to do. But in an effort to save face, so that I don't have to admit that I drastically underestimated how long my plan would take to implement, I'm trying to find and save any extra money that I can."
Simpson explains that although stealing recyclables from the school wasn't his best idea, he was doing it with his students and the benefit of the university in mind.
"Since we throw half of our recyclables away anyways because students are too stupid to read the labels on the bins and the janitors are too lazy to remove a couple of bottles from the garbage can, I figured it wasn't a big deal," Simpson said. "I put all the money from the bottle returns into a secret drawer, cleverly concealed in a sock."
However, Black explains that he went along with President Simpson's recyclable stealing plan for a different reason.
"President Simpson said that he wanted to steal recyclables for UB 2020. To be honest, I have little to no idea what that is," Black said. "I was just looking for some extra cash to put toward my next Mister Universe Pageant."