Sept. 18, 2007 -- Twenty-three tons and counting. That’s how much cardboard the University of Virginia's recycling division collected in the two-week period surrounding Aug. 25, the day designated for students to move into University housing.
To give you an idea of how heavy that is, it’s equivalent to the weight of about four female African elephants. Or, more than 300 U.Va. students.
Bruce C. "Sonny" Beale, recycling program superintendent at U.Va.'s Division of Recoverable and Disposable Resources, said about 65 percent of the 23 tons of cardboard was collected Aug. 26. While move-in day is the traditional day for roughly 4,000 first-year students to arrive at U.Va., many upperclassmen arrived the previous week. Most of the cardboard came from boxes students used to pack their belongings and from packaging of items they purchased.
About 24 University employees gathered the recyclable materials Aug. 25 and 26, including third-year student workers Ina Clark and Sarah Collins, who went from dorm to dorm to make their collections.
"We had it all cleaned up by 11 a.m. on Sunday," Beale said.
About 22 tons of dry cardboard were collected last year, Beale said. This year much of the cardboard was soaked by overnight rain. While the water added to the weight, Beale said it allowed the loads to be compacted tighter, with fewer air pockets.
Workers also collected about 40 cubic yards of bottles and cans, which Beale said was about on par with the previous year. There seemed to be a reduction this year in the amount of difficult-to-recycle polystyrene plastics collected, said Beale, who had no explanation for the drop-off.
Students seemed more receptive toward recycling efforts in general, said Lindsey Daniels, a fourth-year student who works in the recycling division. Daniels attended first-year summer orientation sessions to inform incoming students about recycling services.
"I've heard more enthusiasm about recycling in the last few years," she said.
Some of this enthusiasm has translated into more volunteers for Conservation Advocates, a student group whose members advise other students in their first-year residence halls on environmental efforts. About 40 students registered for the program this year, up from about 23 last year. There are also about 10 upper-class students who are still members and work in their residences.
Having students spread the recycling message among themselves has raised consciousness of recycling.
"They let [incoming students] know we are here," he said. "That has helped."