Every week, thousands of beer cans are consumed by the 20 fraternity houses on Gayley and Landfair avenues.
No matter how you look at it, that’s too much aluminum being wasted, as most fraternities do not have formal recycling systems in place. All parties involved and all parties hosted by the fraternities would benefit from an incentivized recycling program for fraternities.
UCLA has made it clear that we should have “zero waste by 2020.” But this goal is only looking at on-campus waste and recycling programs, according to Chris Gallego, campus recycling coordinator.
If we would like UCLA to have zero waste by 2020, we should really be considering the North Village area, as that is a de facto part of the UCLA community. The fraternity houses should especially be considered part of the “UCLA” that is aiming to have zero waste as they are regulated by the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Relations, a department of Student Affairs.
The ideal solution would be for fraternities to only host parties with kegs so aluminum wastage is eliminated altogether. But insurance policies of the fraternities prohibit the use of kegs, according to Pete Smithhisler, president and CEO of a fraternity trade association.
This may make the zero waste goal a bit more difficult. The five fraternities I spoke to each said that they go through hundreds of beer cans in an average week. None of them have formal recycling programs in place.
But they all mentioned that homeless people go through the trash and sometimes even their houses to collect cans after parties. So why isn’t this good enough?
For starters, this system is irregular and incomplete. The homeless do not report to anyone. They pick and choose where and when to sift through trash, making them as unreliable as URSA on a Sunday night. Further, there are stories of things being stolen from houses and verbal altercations with people who are trying to collect cans as they sometimes come around the wee hours of the morning, while parties are still happening.
There are three possible solutions to this problem: Fraternities can contact the city to get recycling bins for their houses, they can collect the cans themselves and take them to a recycling center, or UCLA could provide bins and collect the recycling.
In the first option, a fraternity would have bins provided by the city to be collected regularly. If the house is not owned by the fraternity, the city will even contact the landlord on behalf of the fraternity, according to their website.
In the second option, a member of the house could be assigned the duty of collecting and separating cans after parties and another could take these cans to a collection location.
Calling the city and taking cans to the nearest recycling location were always options. It has not happened because there is no immediate benefit for a fraternity, outside of seeming “green.” To most, the irregular collection by homeless people is good enough. This is why UCLA should incentivize recycling.
The last option is best. UCLA already has recycling mechanisms in place and collects around 2 tons of cans and bottles a month. Adding fraternities to that mix would not be too difficult. According to Gallego, this is a possible solution as providing dumpsters would only cost $70 to $80 each, but UCLA Facilities Management would have to communicate with landlords to get their permission. UCLA Facilities Mangement does already provide recycling for UCLA Extension and other UCLA offices in Westwood. Reaching out to Gayley and Landfair avenues cannot be too difficult.
An analysis of the fraternity houses interviewed shows that UCLA would make thousands of dollars if it collected cans for Greek houses.
If UCLA cannot or will not dabble in off-campus collection, it should at the least contact the houses to encourage recycling and help set it up through the city. UCLA Facilities Management could also encourage recycling financially. It would be a poor decision to host a “who can collect the most cans” competition, as that would quickly turn into a “which fraternity can drink the most” event. But UCLA facilities could make a small donation to the philanthropies that each house espouses if they participate in a formal recycling. It should be a set amount equal to the expected income from the collection of recycling. This way, heavy drinking is not further encouraged and regular recycling is incentivized.
Fraternities would gain much from recycling in terms of knowing they are doing well and in increasing their public image. As it turns out, chicks are all about the green movement. But since fraternities are not recycling on their own, UCLA should encourage recycling at fraternities because we cannot be at zero waste as a university until the fraternities are on board with the plan.