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June 4, 2023

Dump on the Quad' demonstrates lack of recycling effort in dorms - SEA sponsors event in preparation for college recycling competition in Jan.

By Heather Barbakoff | November 15, 2007

Something on the Upper Quad reeked.

In front of MSE lay a blue tarp with dozens of bulging black garbage bags. Five students dug elbow deep into the nearest bag, wincing as they pulled out crushed water bottles mixed with used tissues. Someone pulled out an empty bottle of rum and tossed it into a pile of glassware; a freshman boy winced as he discovered a package of moldy roast beef. It was the Dump on the Quad.

Sponsored by Students for Environmental Action (SEA), Dump on the Quad was an awareness project directed at opening Hopkins's students eyes to the number of items thrown in the garbage which could actually be recycled. The garbage was collected from the freshmen dorms - the AMRs, Buildings A and B and Wolman Hall - and SEA's members had volunteered for half-hour shifts to rummage through it all as "preparation for January 2008's Recycle Mania contest between colleges," said freshman SEA member Alexandros Athinos. The event lasted from 9 a.m. until around 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 14.

Recycle Mania is a competition between the recycling programs of colleges and universities across the nation. The contest's main objective is to raise awareness of colleges' recycling programs while minimizing the amount of waste. Schools participating in the program must strive to collect the largest number of recyclables per capita, the largest number of total recyclables, have the least amount of trash per capita or have the highest recycling rate. 2008 will be the first time that Hopkins officially participates in the contest. The University had tried to take part in the event last year, but found itself unable to get the initiative off the ground.

The Dump on the Quad was SEA's attempt to begin raising awareness for Hopkins's involvement in Recycle Mania.

While it is early to start raising awareness now, "when people come back next semester, people might remember what we were doing," said SEA president, sophomore Connie Vogelmann.

The group sorted out paper, cardboard, glass and bottles from the bags of garbage.

"At least when people walk by, they think 'what are those crazy people doing?' And then they'll see the signs and remember," Vogelmann said.

Painstakingly, SEA's members sorted each bag individually, sifting through them and determining what could be recycled and what was legitimately considered trash.

One group member held up a desk fan that had its plug cut off; it had been discarded. Vogelmann looked at it and sighed; the fan was for their purposes, unsalvagable. She nodded in the direction of the trash pile. In it went.

"We started with all garbage; it's amazing how much we've been able to sort," Vogelmann said.

The black garbage bags within the dormitories have been designated for garbage, while the clear bags are supposed to be assigned for recyclables.

Despite the University's attempts to make a clear designation between their recycling and garbage depositories, they have not been completely successful.

"One thing we are uncovering now is, a lot of the garbage bags have recycle bags in them ... which means the janitors put the recycle bags in them [black garbage bags]. That's a little bothersome," Vogelmann said.

The excessive number of water bottles and beer cans which had been thrown into trash cans rather than the recycling bins disheartened freshman Elizabeth Gordon.

"It makes me really mad when people don't recycle because it's really easy," Gordon said. "I just wanted to help support the cause."

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