Caption: Reduce, reuse, recycle - the sustainability mantra. Credit: MIT Sloan Management

QC’s Questionable Ability to Maintain Sustainability On Campus

6 mins read

Queens College is known for its large spanning campus, with a well-kept Quad, tables and chairs carefully strewn all over the grounds, and not a single piece of litter in sight. But inside the buildings, which stand shiny and new as if they were built just yesterday, a different picture reveals itself. The QC Buildings and Grounds (B&G) department, whose sole priority is the maintenance of the shiny image QC boasts of, is under fire when it was discovered by a student’s investigation that it may not be properly disposing recycled materials. 

In every building, on every floor , in every hallway, the trademark blue and green bins sit, waiting for recyclable garbage to fill them up. The white text on the bins designate what to throw in them: blue is for plastic bottles and containers, while green is for paper. It seems like an easy-enough system, but what happens after people do their part? What happens when the bins are overflowing with garbage? Who collects and cleans it up? The answer should be that the B&G department collects the bins, empties them into a pile, and recycles everything. 

Senior political science major Lucy Passaro, who is also a double-minor in Business and Liberal Arts (BALA) and theater, came forth with the information regarding the lack of recycling on campus when she began to take notice of all the waste accumulating in their non-respective bins. She had taken her concerns to the Buildings and Grounds workers, who shared a similar perspective on the matter. But despite this initial encounter, Passaro believes the school has not been swayed to take action just yet. “As an environmentally conscious member of society, I believe it is Queens College’s responsibility to reduce waste and to be transparent about the services it offers. To me, it feels dishonest – pretending that the campus is doing whatever it can to reduce its environmental impact.”

Passaro started to research bigger and more influential companies to see what opportunities there are to resolve this. Her findings took her to New York City’s Office of Sustainability, a company equipped with “…multiple grant opportunities and material support to New York schools”, according to Passaro. But that’s just waste in NYC; in Queens College, as QC student Adriana Lopez said, “all recyclable items go to the recycling center; however, it has been getting more difficult to break down these recyclable items. Due to the fact [that these items consist of] multiple materials like plastic, metal, cardboard, and etc… these components mashed into one item make it complex for workers to determine what section these items should belong in.”

Passaro said, “New York City doesn’t have any landfills or incinerators. Waste is sent to other states to be buried in landfills, which allow toxic chemicals to leach into water supplies. Otherwise, it is incinerated in New Jersey.” So what does that say about QC’s Buildings and Grounds department? Are they to blame for where our recycling goes? On one hand, Lopez confirms that yes, but not within the campus, explaining “I don’t usually see people on campus respond to this matter as much, except for the Climate Change or individuals who do care about this issue.” On the other hand, Passaro refutes Lopez, citing that she is not aware of any disciplinary action and that she is “…not sure where accountability is factored into this.”

Despite the concerns of two climate-change activists, Passaro and Lopez both agree that there is no use in pointing fingers. They believe in having diplomatic discussions about taking the first steps toward fixing this issue with unity and willpower. Passaro looks at her QC community and reflects that “it is important to have democratic discussions about the vision we all have for QC’s future, as we all have a vested interest in QC.” 

Proudly taking initiative right on campus is QC NYPIRG, New York Public Interest Research Group. Located in the Student Union, Lower Level Room 36, the club invites students to discuss matters that pertain to all students, whether they originate from New York or elsewhere, in addition to engaging in city-wide protests and lobbying for national recognition. Their office is open to all to stop by and get involved in the neighborhood that is New York City.

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