FSU may be Green, but not Where it Counts


FSU student Peter Wade tries to fit his trash into a full dumpster

FSU Betrays Students, Faculty, and Environment with Abysmal Recycling Offerings

Nick Barrieau –
As students returned to living on campus for the first time in months, many were prepared to return to a drastically changed college experience. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Fitchburg State University would be rolling out many new changes to meet state and CDC guidelines, and attempt to keep students safe. One of these changes was to transform the Holmes Dining Hall into a take-out only experience. In order to make things efficient, Holmes Dining Hall serves food to go in plastic and styrofoam containers, along with paper cups with plastic lids, and both paper and plastic bags. This is perfectly fine, since there wouldn’t have been many other options to allow for take-out. However, what isn’t fine is the fact that Fitchburg State University does not offer a large-scale recycling program to residents living on campus. 
When classes started up this semester at Fitchburg State, students were taking in the warm weather that comes with the tail-end of summer. As students ate their meals outside, they were quickly met with an inconveniencing issue. Most, if not all of the outdoor trash cans were completely full and overflowing with waste from the dining hall. Keep in mind that a good portion of this waste could have been recycled, however there is only one outdoor recycling bin on the entirety of campus, and it isn’t located near the dining hall or any of the residential buildings. On top of having overflowing waste seeping out of most trash cans on campus, it’s downright pathetic for a higher learning institution such as Fitchburg State to turn a blind eye to being environmentally conscious. Tj Saccoccio, a third-year student at Fitchburg State said, “I think the university is doing a really bad job, not only with recycling, but informing students how to recycle. It’s almost like they encourage us not to recycle, by giving us styrofoam containers and other wasteful products from the dining hall.” 

Tj Saccoccio dumps his recycling into the only bin in his dormitory. (Nick Barrieau)

The Capital Planning and Maintenance section of FSU’s website claims that, “Fitchburg State University is dedicated to the preservation of our natural resources. To this end, recycling bins for paper and computer paper have been clearly identified and placed in strategic locations throughout the campus.” However, as a student who has attended Fitchburg State for multiple years, I can attest that outside of academic buildings and office areas, there are either no recycling bins, or they are hidden away and unknown to the student population. For example, many residential students including myself would have thought that recycling is not offered in the dorms. After reaching out to some faculty members for this article, I was informed that all residence halls have recycling bins on the main floor. After looking around, I found a shamefully small and completely empty recycling bin hidden away in my building’s laundry room. So much for clearly identified bins in strategically placed locations! Not only is there absolutely no communication to residents that they are able to recycle, but residents are told to throw away all of their trash in the nearest dumpsters to their building. Even if all of the residents in a dormitory were able to actively recycle, the size of the bin in my dorm building would be completely insufficient, on top of being located in an inconvenient location. It is completely absurd to me that Fitchburg State offers a small recycling bin to a dorm building with five floors worth of students. This would have been unacceptable during a normal semester, but now students have tenfold the amount of recyclable waste from eating three meals a day from the dining hall. 
I reached out to Reid Parsons Ph.D., who serves as the Sustainability Advisory Committee Chair at Fitchburg State. When referring to the current waste problem Parsons stated, “Clearly this is wholly inadequate if we hope to make any real effort toward recycling on this campus. Our recycling rate, when I last checked in 2017, was at 11% of waste produced. This is also an embarrassment to the University when, if legitimate effort were to be taken, our rate should at least reach the national average of 33%.” According to the Sustainability page on Fitchburg State’s website, in 2008 the university was able to recycle 25% of campus trash output. It is completely unbelievable that the university recycling rate has declined 14% from 2008 to 2017. Let’s reverse course and make 2020 the year where recycling makes a comeback at Fitchburg State. 
Parsons also shared a document with me dating back to 2017, where he clearly identified problems and solutions to the waste problem at Fitchburg State, yet he was met with no action on the university’s behalf. The fact that the university has been aware of this problem and has specifically chosen not to act on it is unacceptable to the student population and faculty of Fitchburg State, along with the environment. Now that recyclable waste has increased exponentially due to the dining hall, Fitchburg State should quickly act to greatly expand its recycling program to outdoor areas, and increase the awareness and number of bins located in the dorms. We have a duty as a campus community to solve issues on campus, and I believe that with enough student support, the university can become more environmentally conscious and take action. 
With clear communication and an increased rate of recycling bins, we can take one step closer to having an environmentally friendly campus. As it currently stands right now, green may be one of Fitchburg State’s school colors, but in the end, our university isn’t truly “green”. If you would like your voice to be heard on this issue and enact change, please reach out to the administrators of Capital Planning and Maintenance, whose contact information can be found here.