The University of Melbourne’s new sustainability policies have been riddled with miscommunication between its implementation and its advertising.
Some of the changes introduced in the last academic year have included the introduction of mixed recycling bins and the switch to use 100 per cent recycled copy paper across the University.
According to bright yellow posters plastered across the campus, mixed recycling bins can recycle everything from paper, and steel cans to takeaway food containers and disposable coffee cups.
However, since late last year, the University’s own sustainability unit, Sustainable Campus, have included in their FAQ page that these bins are not able to recycle takeaway coffee cups.
The University of Melbourne Student Union’s (UMSU) former environment officers for 2018, Lucy Turton and Callum Simpson, confirmed to Farrago on 13 November 2018, that the University’s recyclers are unable to strip the plastic linings from the disposable coffee cups, and never have been.
Despite this, the University continues to advertise false information online, at the time of writing.
“I don’t think the Uni was maliciously trying to ‘lie’ about the cups being recyclable, but I would imagine the real issue is communication between the various institutional arms of the University,” added Turton and Simpson.
When contacted earlier this year, Sustainable Campus clarified saying, “Up until recently, our recycling contractors were able to take coffee cups.”
A spokesperson from Sustainable Campus said, “We’re currently overhauling our waste strategy to ensure our recycling streams are free of whatever is considered contaminants. With this, we will be updating our posters and other such communications to align with tightened industry guidelines and our new waste strategy—this can be expected by orientation week.”
Last year, the University announced that it was switching to 100 per cent recycled copy paper in March “across the University”. However, Esther Le Couteur, an English honours student and a former editor of Farrago, couldn’t find 100 per cent recycled paper for printing flyers during the student elections last September.
As per UMSU regulations, printouts needed to be made from 100 per cent recycled paper, and since the University had made the announcement in March, Le Couteur went to the Baillieu Library instead of the usual stop at Officeworks.
“I was rifling through all these different cupboards in the old printing room at Baillieu for some printing paper and just got interested in the fact none of them said recycled. I had this awkward walk around a few printers in the library and when there were paper packets in the bin they didn’t say recycled either,” said Le Couteur.
The University’s student printing service clarified that only the Fuji Xerox printers were run by the university and other HP and Toshiba printers were run by different departments. Le Couteur had used an HP printer before the Baillieu Library made the switch to Fuji Xerox printers in December last year.
Sustainable Campus also responded saying that the University has been using 100 per cent recycled copy paper but “depending on previous stock levels held by various departments, it is possible they have not yet made the switch. For all staff purchasing new paper, they can only access 100 per cent recycled paper through our preferred supplier.”
Zhang Qun, a Masters design student, hopes the University puts more effort in sustainability, particularly in the Melbourne School of Design (MSD) building.
Qun alleged that the two cleaners who are stationed at the MSD regularly empty the recycling and the rubbish into the same bins.
He claimed he has raised this issue during the student-staff meetings for MSD students but was told that “because of ‘recycling becoming contaminated’, the cleaning contractors will not sort them through.”
A spokesperson from Sustainable Campus said that the claim is very difficult to prove and monitor:
“Sometimes the cleaners put the bin bags of waste and recycling in the one trolley to take down to the bins in the loading bay and separate them there. This can look like they are putting it all in together. Every effort is made to train the cleaners in correct procedures and to emphasise that they must not only do the right thing but also be SEEN to be doing it as well. This issue is why the black and clear bags system was introduced—to differentiate the two streams.”
Correction: A correction has been made to clarify the timeframes within which the former environment officers and the spokesperson from Sustainable Campus made their comments.