Environmentalist praises single-stream

CJ May FES ’89, the Yale Office of Sustainability’s recycling coordinator, praised the University’s transition to single-stream recycling at a Pierson Master’s Tea Tuesday evening.

May, who has been involved with Yale’s sustainability efforts since 1989, explained the process of single-stream recycling and its advantages over disparate systems in front of a crowd of around 20 students.

“People who never used to recycle before are starting to do so because single-stream has made it so easy,” May said, adding that when students know everything is supposed to go into one bin, they are more likely to recycle.

May said single-stream recycling’s two biggest advantages are the decreased use of trucks and the fact that it allows environmentally aware students to be involved with the creative and educational aspects of recycling. The Student Taskforce for Environmental Partnership has been empowered by the transition to single-stream, he said.

The transition is taking hold statewide, he added.

“Everywhere in Connecticut, sorting facilities are being built where all the trash that single-stream initially puts into one bin is sorted into separate categories — glass, color, types of plastic — and is then sold back to manufacturing companies,” he said, adding that although Yale was ahead of everyone else in its effort to introduce single-stream, the movement is clearly becoming increasingly widespread.

May said that the most effective way to institutionalize single-stream recycling is through legislation and community action, both of which have effectively spurred environmental initiatives in the past.

Despite its many benefits, there are some downsides to single-stream, May said. Because it allows people to throw glass and paper into the same bin, fragments of broken glass are often unintentionally sorted with paper and as a result, glass fibers enter and damage the paper-recycling machines.

Still, “the convenience of single-stream recycling trumps its downsides,” May said. “But there is a lot of development in this field that has yet to happen. Facilities need to be improved, and single-stream has yet to spread to some states where landfill sites are very cheap.”

Dure Aziz Amna ’15 said the talk highlighted Yale students’ obligation to learn more about sustainability.

“I think people at Yale really need to show more willingness to educate themselves about environmental awareness,” she said. “And what is better than hearing all of this from an expert such as CJ May?”

Dan Mitropolsky ’15 said he admires May’s passion and commitment to the environment, and he said the talk made it clear that students are crucial to fostering a culture of environmental awareness.

CJ May became Yale’s recycling coordinator in 1990 and will leave the post in July 2012.

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