USF shuts down Recycling Drop-Off Station, students left concerned

While the center has been closed since July as a result of irregular disposal of nonrecyclable materials, the news came as a surprise for some students in recent weeks. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE

The USF Recycling Drop-Off Station permanently shut down its operations July 7 as a result of the irregular disposal of nonrecyclable materials such as batteries and old mattresses, leaving students wondering about the decision’s impact on campus as well as in surrounding communities.

The City of Tampa’s Department of Solid Waste and Environmental Program Management and the university decided to shut down the drop-off station after it was subject to illegal dumping of hazardous and nonrecyclable materials. The station, originally located on USF Sycamore Drive, was open to the public as a means to adequately dispose of recyclable waste and included two green roll-off containers from the City of Tampa for public recycling.

“The USF location was consistently used by residents of the City of Tampa and Hillsborough County. Unfortunately, the drop-off site at USF was used as a dumping ground (versus true recycling) and created a negative environmental impact on the site and for the USF campus, which was the opposite of its intended purpose,” City of Tampa’s Department of Solid Waste and Environmental Program’s Chief of Administration Adriana Colina wrote in an email to The Oracle. 

Although the center has been closed since July, the news came as a surprise for some in recent weeks.

Sarah Bulthuis, a junior majoring in business and pre-law, said despite having recycling bins near residence halls across campus, the recycling site’s closure will consequently encourage fewer students to recycle on campus.

“I definitely think students’ recycling will decrease greatly, especially those that live on campus,” Bulthuis said. “There are small little bins in the dorms but not a mass recycling center like we had. I went there often, maybe once or twice a week. I’m so upset that they took it away and feel it reflects badly on USF’s view on being environmentally friendly.”

Amber Brocki, a junior majoring in environmental science and policy, said she believes the surrounding community, including students living off-campus, will be the most impacted since many apartment complexes don’t offer recycling bins for their residents.

“The closing of the USF recycling center is definitely disappointing. With the recycling center closed, recycling in the area is most definitely going to decrease,” Brocki said. “Students and faculty need recycling centers to be conveniently located in order for them to want to recycle, with these centers being closed many will no longer bother recycling and the amount of trash produced will inevitably increase. 

“Recycling centers are vital for people who want to make a positive impact on their community and prevent unnecessary items from going to landfills.”

While the station was located on USF grounds, it was not part of USF’s recycling program. Rather, it was part of an initiative by the City of Tampa’s Department of Solid Waste and Environmental Program Management that included two other drop-off stations that are still open in Tampa — one is located at South 34th Street and the other at East 9th Avenue.

The recycling drop-off station was originally located on the Museum of Science and Industry’s (MOSI) grounds, but after construction started in 2003, USF agreed to temporarily house the station on the edge of campus.

The move from MOSI to Sycamore Drive was supposed to be temporary, but it was never relocated back to its original location after construction was completed at MOSI.

Assistant Director of Communications for Administrative Services Aaron Nichols said USF never agreed to permanently house the drop-off station. In addition to having to pay a contractor to pick up the materials from the drop-off station, the ongoing misuse of the center was getting costly. 

“USF had to incur the cost of dealing with these items and commit labor resources to keep the area cleaned up,” Nichols said. “As a result of the additional cost and labor, the decision was made to close the Recycling Drop-Off Station on Sycamore.”

For Annelise Curtin, a junior majoring in chemical engineering, the site’s closure is a “step back for sustainability.”

“I think fewer students, both on and off campus will recycle, especially students without cars,” Curtin said. “I lived across the street from campus, and I collected my recycling and brought it over every three weeks or so. I feel disappointed, since it feels like a step back for sustainability, and at odds with the school’s other sustainability initiatives.”

Kelly Gordie, a grad student in the doctor of audiology program, said she relied on the USF Recycling Drop-Off site to dispose of her recyclables as the option was not available in her apartment complex.

“My apartment complex doesn’t recycle, so I really relied on that recycling center,” Gordie said. “Every weekend, I’d gather up my recyclables and drive to campus just for the recycling center.”

For Gordie, the harm caused by those who irregularly disposed of nonrecyclable materials was beyond the USF community. 

“Apparently they had to close the recycling center because too many people were littering all around, and the workers were going into too much overtime trying to clean up after those garbage monsters,” Gordie said. “They make it so difficult to recycle and do the right thing for the planet, I’m sure others who relied on that recycling center just gave up.”

Despite the site’s closure, Gordie found a way out of the situation to still practice recycling. 

“Luckily, I found another recycling dumpster on campus next to [Juniper-Poplar], so now I take my recyclables there,” Gordie said.

USF’s recycling program was established in 1994 and since then, has recycled over 7,100 tons of paper and 48 tons of aluminum. Nichols said the university currently has single-stream recycling bins around campus, where a single recycling bin can be used to collect both recyclable fiber materials, including cardboard and nonfiber containers like glass and plastic.

Besides reducing sorting efforts, Nichols said single-stream recycling encourages recycling from students while it’s also more cost-efficient since single-compartment trucks are cheaper and easier to operate. Their collection routes can be automated and are more efficient, according to Nichols.

The Department of Solid Waste and Environmental Program Management began looking on July 7 for additional sites to accommodate a new station. Colina said the department has yet to announce a new site, but is “considering other options at this time.”

While drop-off sites do promote recycling in the community, Colina said the hazards of illegal dumping far outweighed the benefits the station had for residents, with the station amassing a “very minute piece of the total recycling tonnage the City collects.”

Despite the station’s closure, Nichols said the USF recycling program hasn’t been affected as there are still several recycling bins across campuses near residence halls, general buildings as well as the USF Library.