When Paul Riel, Northwestern's Executive Director of Residential Services, asked students if the new trash system was working, they answered with a resounding “no.”
Roughly 30 residents from Allison Residential community, Shepard Residential College and Public Affairs Residential College (PARC) gathered in the Allison lobby at 9 p.m. Tuesday to discuss over cake the recent Trash and Recycling Centers introduced at the beginning of Spring Quarter.
Riel realized that miscommunication was a key factor in students’ discontent. Having spent months planning the change, Riel was surprised that most students first heard about it through an email on April 1. This social aimed to close the gap between Residential Services and area residents.
As conversation ensued, students agreed that the main issue is the lack of a trash can in the hall lounges. SESP freshman Dylan Waickman said, “It isn’t a matter of distances. Where food is prepared, there needs to be a place to dispose of it,” he said.
“If I get a trash can in my lounge I’ll be happy and he seems to understand that’s the major concern.”
Riel asked students questions and listened as students informally blurted out concerns. Although they seemed less bothered by the presence of the Trash and Recycling Centers, residents still complain of the odor. Ironically, Riel said odor was one of the leading causes for the centers.
“We walked through the buildings a couple of times, and I couldn’t get over the odor,” he said.
The walk-throughs Riel mentioned began in the winter and ended about two weeks ago. Historically, the walk-throughs are preceded by ASG surveys asking residents about living conditions and any concerns they may have. Riel said the primary reason behind these walk-throughs is to see dorm life through a student lens.
Riel also said that while walking through dorm halls, trashcans seemed to be placed every 60 feet, which he thought was “unsightly.”
“In my opinion,” he said, “trash cans belong hidden.”
Riel still supports the hiding of the trashcans not only for aesthetic reasons but also for logistical reasons. The cleaning staff now collects trash from one location, whereas before, cans were overflowing in hallways, lobbies and bathrooms.
The removal of bathroom trash cans was unintended, he said. However, it was a result of residents filling those cans with dorm room waste.
“There is a logic to what we are trying to accomplish here,” he said.
While Riel said he is confident in the benefits this system will bring, he also said he was excited to talk with students about the their concerns.
“It’s nice to hear from students. They’re our customer base. If we can make a change, we will,” Riel said.