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Dorm Residents Need Education on Recycling


Segundo Salas’ Monday night was rougher than that of many students who dorm in LIU Brooklyn’s Conolly Hall. 

It was 1 a.m. and not only did he have to manage all of the residents’ trash disposals, but he also had to carefully separate it, as some recycling materials were thrown in the trash disposal by residents who neglected to properly collaborate and recycle. 

Salas, also known as “Papi” by many of Connolly Hall’s residents, is originally from Colombia, but has lived in the U.S. for 40 years. Salas is one of the dorm’s janitors, having worked at LIU for the past 10 years. He is one of the people responsible for collecting the trash and recycling disposals from Conolly Hall.

With a vast knowledge managing each floors’ disposals, Salas explained he was trained before starting the job. “Before we start managing the trash disposals, we are firstly trained to know how to remove and separate the trash and recycling,” he said.

The trash and recycling are collected every day, twice a day: Once in the morning by another janitor and once at night by Salas, “I collect the disposals from 10 p.m. to midnight, sometimes even finishing at 1 a.m.,” Salas said.

LIU Brooklyn janitors differentiate trash from recycling by using different color bags. “The trash bags are black whilst the recycling bags are blue,” Salas said. “If by any reason both bags are black, I will collect all the trash bags from each floor, dispose of them, and then return to get the recycling ones, so they don’t get mixed.”

All bags are taken to Connolly’s first floor and taken to the back area, where there are different bins for recycling and trash. A LIU worker then arrives and takes it in a truck to Dekalb Avenue, where the recycling truck later on picks it up. 

However, the janitors usually encounter issues when they collect the disposals. “Most of the time students don’t collaborate, they throw recycling products, such as plastic bottles, on the trash bins, Salas said. “Whenever I open the trash bins, I first check if there is any recyclable item that can be put into the recycling bin. Nevertheless, when students put full trash bags into the bins and the items are not visible, it’s harder for me to see what can be recycled.” 

Salas explained that residents often throw trash in the recycling bins, where he can easily move the items himself. However, other times the environment doesn’t get that lucky. “Sometimes trash items are thrown to the recycling bins, contaminating the rest of the recycling and causing all the recycling bag to end up in the trash disposal,” he said. 

Another issue the janitors have to deal with is residents throwing glass materials into the trash disposals. “When students put glass in the recycling bins then I am able to see it and already be cautious by doubling the bag or knowing how to carry it so it doesn’t tear,” Salas said. “Nevertheless, when glass is thrown in the trash bins, I can’t see it and it becomes dangerous for me as the bag can tear or I could even end up cutting myself with it.” 

Salas urged dorm residents to cooperate more in sorting trash and recycling, to make environmental practices more effective and make his work a little easier. “In recycling I do part of the job, but the other part has to be done by the students. They need to collaborate in order for this to work, and usually they don’t,” he said.

Conolly Hall has two recycling bins in each floor, yet the amount of people that actually recycle might be around 10%, if not less. “Let’s say that there’s 50 people on each floor. Well, from those 50 only five people recycle,” Salas estimated. 

LIU Sophomore Kyle Underwood affirmed that he always recycles back home in Australia, but said he has never recycled at school because he didn’t even know the dorms had recycling bins. “If I knew there were recycling bins, I would have been recycling for the past two years, but I didn’t know,” he said. 

Underwood attributes his lack of knowledge to the fact that there are no labels near the bins signaling that they are for recycling. “There are no labels saying there are bins for recycling or for general waste,” he said. Underwood believed that a lot more students would recycle if they knew there were recycling bins. “I don’t think many students know about this, at least my other three roommates have no idea,” he said. “We chuck everything into one bin.” 

Image of Conolly Hall’s bins on the sixth floor – shows the lack of labels

Similarly, LIU senior Aida Gonzalez has lived in Connolly Hall for four years and did not know of the existence of the recycling bins. “How am I supposed to know there are recycling bins if there are no labels anywhere?” she said. “I feel so bad now because in all these past years I could’ve recycled numerous amounts of times and I didn’t because this institution failed to put something as simple and standard as labels on the bins,” Gonzalez exclaimed. 

Nonetheless, Underwood thought that recycling was still easier in his hometown. “For me, back home each bin is color coded, whereas here the lids are closed on the bins so you can’t see the difference between any of them,” he said. “Plus, the bins back home have photos on them of what is supposed to go where, so you know what you can or cannot put in each one of them.” 

Image taken from Google – shows how recycling bins should be color coded and labeled

Underwood said recycling is highly advertised in his hometown, making him more committed to recycle. “Here, as they don’t give enough emphasis to recycling. You don’t feel obliged to do it, or at least to do it as much,” he said.

Salas advises not only for the residents to get educated in terms of how to recycle, but also for the institution to provide an orientation to the students as many are unaware of the existence of the recycling bins. “If the Resident Assistants would provide an orientation in the floor meetings about where the recycling bins are, it would make a big difference,” Salas said.

The experienced and friendly janitor ended by saying that if the students that dorm at Connolly Hall would be given a proper orientation in terms of recycling, instead of only five people, there could be at least 25 out of 50 people recycling. “We would be helping more the environment,” he said. 

Image of Conolly Hall’s recycling bins (to the left) beside the trash bins (to the right)

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