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Virginia Tech Recycling - Newspaper Recycling Update

By Larry Bechtel

Spectrum Volume 17 Issue 22 - March 2, 1995

As of March 1, the recycling rolloffs at Shultz, Dietrick, and Owens Dining Halls no longer have compartments for newspapers. The Derring rolloff will continue to accept newspapers, as usual.

The change was required by Montgomery County Recycling. At the Mid-County Recycling Center, where the three Dining Hall rolloffs are emptied, workers have experienced regular problems getting the newspapers to come out. This is the consequence of a combination of problems: the tendency of newspapers to become wedged under the heavy compartment doors; the tendency of newspapers to stick to interior surfaces wet with beverage syrups; and the fact that the newspapers are in a middle compartment, where they cannot be easily reached.

To complicate matters, the rolloffs cannot be fully tilted, and the driver is unable to "rock" a rolloff while tilted, because of physical limitations at the Recycling Center. Specifically, the site is graveled and unroofed. If recyclables are dumped directly on the gravel, equipment will scoop up both recyclables and gravel; in a wind--and it is frequently windy at the site--newspapers blow away.

The interim solution has been to back the rolloff up to a hopper, tilt the rolloff partially, allow the hopper to fill, tote the hopper on a bobcat to a storage area, empty the hopper, and then repeat these steps until the rolloff is completely empty. Though slow, this arrangement has worked reasonably well for beverage containers, which roll, but has not worked very well for newspapers, which are supposed to slide but in fact often don't.

Consequently, workers have had to scramble up inside the rolloff, while it is tilted, and manually break the newspapers loose. Working at an angle like this is precarious, and makes for slow work. Worst of all, it is not safe. This was clearly indicated recently when a tilted rolloff came loose from its hitch and slid off the truck to the ground. No one was up inside the rolloff at the time, and no one was injured; in fact, the incident only briefly interrupted usual routines.

But having learned of this incident, the Montgomery County Recycling coordinator promptly called upon Virginia Tech to assist in devising a safe alternative. The solution was to cease collecting newspapers in the three dining hall rolloffs, and route them through a separate rolloff. It is hoped that since campus collection of newspapers is fairly systematic, few students, faculty, or staff will be affected.

People bringing newspapers to the dining hall rolloffs from off campus will be affected. But worker safety cannot be compromised, and the rolloffs are meant to serve campus, rather than the community at large.

Building an efficient, reliable infrastructure for recycling has been a learning process. The link-up between the Tech system and the county's facilities--as demonstrated by the rolloff issue--is a telling example. But the Materials Recovery Facility, designed to replace current facilities and slated to open in the fall of 1995, should clear up many problems.

If you have questions, please call VTR Coordinator Larry Bechtel (1-9915) or Montgomery County Recycling Coordinator Tim Myers (382-6923).