When Main Campus is empty and all that can be heard are the sounds of traffic lights, Danny Bittner is driving around in his recycling truck, making more than 30 stops around the university.
It’s an early morning routine that Bittner does every Wednesday and Friday, year round. There are no summers off for Bittner. Facilities Management said the amount of materials recycled only decreases by about 10 percent in the summer months.
“Colleges and departments clean house in the summer. They throw away hundreds of pounds of books,” said Marshall Budin, a senior facilities specialist.
Bittner and his partner work in these early morning hours to unload tilts containing bags of shredded paper, bottles and cardboard boxes.
“Danny doesn’t play. He’s aggressive and a hard worker. That’s important for an operation this scale,” Budin said.
On an average day, Bittner picks up over 10,000 pounds of materials. Last year, 579 tons of recyclable materials were collected from both Main Campus and Health Sciences Campus.
More than 95 percent of what is picked up is recyclable. The average amount of contaminates such as food waste and tissues is 15 percent but, Bittner places Temple’s average at 2 percent or less.
“The pick-up is usually very clean,” Bittner said. “[There are] very few materials that are non-recyclable.”
Budin said that while the dorms contribute
mostly bottles and cans to the recycling effort, 90 percent of what is picked up is paper material. The University Services Building is one of the biggest generators of recyclables on campus.
After Bittner’s three-hour run, he heads to National Paper Recycling Incorporated in Camden. There, the recyclables are sorted and broken down. The majority of the paper recycled at Temple goes to tissue and paper towel companies. Temple has been recycling since 1989 and is one of the longest-running programs in the city, but it has not always been this successful.
Recycling containers were sporadically
placed around campus and often filled with food waste. Budin said this was a huge problem in the Tuttleman Learning Center, one of Temple’s busiest buildings.
Budin said the recycling containers were not large enough and the system was just not working. Budin and his student interns created a new system for recycling in Tuttleman. For their efforts, Temple was awarded the Pennsylvania Waste Watchers Award in Philadelphia County earlier this year. The award is given out by a group of recycling management associations in Pennsylvania.
The new system at Tuttleman involves changing the way recycling is collected in the building. Three types of containers labeled glass, aluminum and plastic were introduced. Also a bin for food waste was created. Signs instructing students what to recycle were incorporated into the new approach and, according to Budin, it worked. Budin said there has been an increase in recycled paper and cardboard.
“We have over 200 housekeeping employees
and only notice when things are out of order,” Budin said, “The housekeepers are the unsung heroes.”
Other than Budin, the program does not have staff members involved, so student involvement plays a big part of the project. The biggest issue that Budin has seen with the program is that students are unfamiliar with recycling practices at Temple.
“Students recycle at home and know the rationale [as to] why to recycle but are not used to recycling here,” Budin said.
Eric Sciole a member of Students for Environmental Action said there should be recycling facilities in every building.
“Even though I’m concerned about it, I throw stuff away,” Sciole, a sophomore film and media arts major, said. Freshman Danny Doherty said he agrees that there should be more recycling containers on campus, such as on Liacouras Walk and at the Bell Tower.
“Students have nowhere to throw things away. I find myself walking all over campus with a bottle,” Doherty said.
By recycling, Budin said Temple saves over $80,000 annually. Budin said it is cheaper
to recycle than to simply throw things away.
LeAnne Matlach can be reached at LeAnne.Matlach@temple.edu.