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Recycling the profits from campus ads

by Jane Davenport

Concordia's Recycling Committee is expanding in scope this year, thanks to revenue from a corporate ad campaign on campus.

"We've [been able to do more than] just sit there and make recommendations, which is what other coordinators have had to do," said recycling coordinator John Purkis over a cup of coffee at Java U.

Revenue from theZoom ad campaign in the Henry F. Hall Building was allocated to the recycling committee by the University last April.

"It was like a gift," Purkis said. The extra funds totalled $24,000 and tripled the committee's original budget of $12,000. Last year, the money was used to begin setting up 100 recycling centres on campus. The biggest expenses were recycling bins, signs and stickers for the centres. Purkis said there are currently 30 or 40 centres in place, with the rest slated to go up this fall.

Reaction to the advertising, which involves eye-catching ads on the walls and in washrooms, has been relatively low-key, Purkis said.

"Different people have different attitudes about corporatization," he said. He has received e-mail messages asking what the money is being used for, however.

Purkis is working on a Master's degree in institutional administration; he has a BA in environmental biology from Brock University. He was hired as recycling coordinator just over a year ago.

Concordia's recycling committee "had a fairly good program," Purkis said, but "Quebec is behind the other provinces by about five to 10 years." In 1991, the Quebec government set the goal of reducing garbage by 50 per cent. Seven years later, they have only reduced it by 10 per cent. Purkis blames it on "a different approach to life" in Quebec.

The committee purchased a large outdoor composter that has been in use since last January. They also initiated a vermi-composting program, which has grown to about 30 lbs of worms chomping away on compostable waste.

There are recycling suggestion boxes in the Henry F. Hall and Campus Centre Buildings, in which several students have expressed concern about the amount of paper used in campus copy centres. One of Purkis's next projects will be to lobby for more environmentally friendly photocopiers.

He also wants to undertake a waste audit, which would involve a statistical analysis of the waste in garbage bins on campus. "You have to know where you're coming from in order to know where you're going." An audit was done on the downtown campus last year; Loyola Campus is on the agenda for the fall semester. The audit determines how much recyclable material makes it into the trash.

Purkis currently puts in 15 hours a week, often more. Although the committee is working on a job description for a full-time coordinator, he is on the lookout for volunteer help. "There are so many things that need to be done," he said.

The photocopier and waste audit initiatives are good volunteer opportunities, as well as the cardboard-box recovery program. In addition, Purkis is going to set up a recycling "police force" on campus, using student volunteers.

"They would have to be willing totell people when they're throwing something out that could be recycled."

It's impossible to do too much for the environment, Purkis said. "Unless we do more about it, the repercussions are going to be terrible," he said.

Copyright 1998 Concordia's Thursday Report.