CAMPUS: Recycling documentary to raise awareness

McGill alumni Jodie Martinson and Emmanuel Cappellin, both Arts 2006 graduates, worked over the summer to prepare a 30-minute documentary on the state of recycling at McGill that will premiere in the Lev Bukhman room this Thursday. The film also seeks to determine who is responsible for what they describe as McGill’s failures with respect to recycling and to propose long term solutions for individuals and for the administration.

The two environmentalist-filmmakers see a gap between knowledge and action at McGill.

“McGill as an institution has all sorts of experts on things like recycling and environmental issues in general,” Martinson said. “So why is it then, with so much expertise, that we have this disconnect between what we know and what we do on our campus? So while lots of people could talk to you about the importance of recycling… in actual fact we have a recycling system that is not doing that well.”

Martinson and Cappellin’s documentary presents a multi-factor analysis of the failure which takes many reasons into account as opposed to pointing the finger at one individual or office.

“Perhaps it’s a lack of funding, perhaps a lack of user awareness, perhaps it’s a structural problem with McGill administration and a big disconnect between people that run the environment office and the people that actually do waste management at McGill,” Martinson said. “There are all sorts of communication and administrative problems. And then, there is just a lack of vision from up high at McGill. We don’t have anyone saying that it’s very important that we become an environmental leader in our community.”

The filmmakers pointed to the lack of proper marking at recycling stations as an example of part of the problem. By not labeling slots for paper, cans and bottles at some recycling stations, individuals accidentally end up improperly recycling, perhaps by putting a juice box in the paper stream, which contaminates the recyclables.

According to the Sustainable McGill Project, of 57 recycling bins sampled only 18 of them had no contamination whatsoever.

Manager of the Department of Environmental Health and Safety Wayne Wood said that in many ways an institution’s recycling is a reflection of the services available by the municipality.

“In terms of financial incentives for recycling, they are less in Montreal than in most other municipalities,” said Wood.

Wood pointed to the low cost of disposing waste in Montreal as part of lack of incentives.

“[McGill] pays a company to dispose of its waste. It’s about thirty-five dollars per ton to dispose of waste in Montreal. The cost of disposing of waste in Toronto is much greater than that. So in Toronto if you recycle and divert a ton of waste into recycling, even if you don’t get any money from your recycling, you save more money. Take that same amount of work, that same amount of effort, that same amount of energy, and you’re only save half as much in Montreal,” he said.

Echoing the filmmakers concerns, Adela Maciejewski, Sustainable McGill Project Counsel Member, said that there is a lack of communication between the department of Environmental Health and Safety and building services.

“I think that a lot of the problems we have are, at least in part, due to the fact that it’s not altogether clear who’s responsible,” said Maciejewski. “Environmental Health and Safety is responsible for bringing about bins and monitoring how well the system works, whereas facilities is actually responsible for the system itself. But from our perspective, it seems that there is not enough communication between the two.”

Martinson said that the issue is complex and comprehensive and stems from within all of us.

“I think that a lot of students make simple arguments like ‘the administration needs to pick this up’ and ‘why aren’t they doing more on this?’ And we do think that the administration needs to take a much more active role in providing leadership for everyone at McGill on sustainability issues. But we’re also exploring this divide that happens among all of us between knowing better and not doing enough,” Martinson said.

For Cappellin, the best solution is to get students involved, which will ultimately force the administration to make changes as well.

“The ultimate aim of this documentary is to target students and tell students to get involved,” Cappellin said, “and if that involvement and awareness is increased and if our knowledge is put to action, I think that that ultimately changes the way that the administration conducts itself because it puts a great pressure on it.”

Martinson expressed her hope that the documentary would at least serve as a move in the right direction.

“We all have a role to play in these sorts of things on campus. We all just need to do a lot better. Recycling is not going to solve all of our problems, but it’s certainly a good first step.”

The documentary will premiere on Thursday September 28th at 7:00 p.m. in the Lev Bukhman Room.”

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