Environment Blog

New York University Journalism Department Fails to Recycle

November 19, 2008

This fall, I gave New York University $13,845 for the glorious opportunity to spend one day each week in their newly minted journalism building in Manhattan. Apparently, what that steep price tag didn’t include was a few plastic bins for recycling bottles and cans. Perhaps the journalism department blew their entire yearly recycling container budget on the five paper recycling bins scattered across two floors and various classrooms?

The irony is I recently received an email about an NYU bike share program, which allows students to sign out bikes on campus when they need one. But what  is the point of all these other sustainability measures if you can’t even sustain the most basic green practice of them all–recycling?!

Maybe if Bette Midler swung by NYU’s  j-school she could inspire them to buy a few plastic recycle bins. If she can throw herself behind a mammoth project like restoring Central Park, maybe she could also use her powers of good  at 20 Cooper Square. Even without a green Diva gracing our campus, isn’t recycling mandatory here in New York City? The situation is ridiculous, and embarrassing for a University that claims to prioritize sustainability.

Here’s an idea NYU, instead of buying a few bicycles for students who are already probably just walking to class, why don’t you spend that money on recycling and take a step toward lowering the campus’ collective carbon footprint.

(In case you didn’t know, recycling keeps items out of landfills – which emit methane and toxic chemicals. More imporantly recycling cuts down on resources being mined to make new products. Both of these things add to a total carbon footprint.)

Related on Scienceline:

A program that rewards recyclers.

Does it cost more to recycle a plastic bottle than make a new one?


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Kate Panuska says:

Did you check with either the Journalism staff or the NYU recycling center when researching your story? Your facts are incorrect. This sounds like a number of impressions instead of reporting.

If you are concerned, I’d be happy to let you know of our efforts. I’m at the front desk of the Institute.

Katherine Tweed says:

The university does pay a waste contractor to recycle commingled bottles and cans the contractor collects at NYU Journalism, which is a step in the right direction and an oversight in my reporting.

Although there are a few paper bins, they are not in every classroom and the larger collection bins that are near the elevators did not arrive until nearly a year (Summer Session 2008) after the department began having classes at 20 Cooper Square.

Additional recycling bins would make it easier to ensure that items are kept separate and actually recycled, especially since current prices for recyclables are quite low – which gives the trash collector less incentive to sort.

I laud the department for the advances that have been made, but also hope that it will reexamine whether commingled collection of cans and bottles is the best option for recycling the most material possible.

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