ASUM passed a resolution calling for paper towels located in bathrooms to be composted instead of disposed of in a landfill on April 1.
The forestry building and the fourth floor of the Clapp Building are currently the only buildings on campus that compost paper towels. Since the two buildings started composting their paper towels eight months ago, they diverted 940 gallons of paper towels along with 240 plastic trash bags from the landfill, according to the ASUM resolution. ASUM Senator and resolution author Adrianna Medina stated that if paper towels were composted campus wide, 1,400 fewer gallons of paper towels would enter the landfill per month.
According to Medina, ASUM advocates for sustainability efforts through the ASUM Sustainability Committee, the Zero Waste Board and the Kress Revolving Energy Fund (KRELF) — a fund set aside for student-run sustainability projects. In November, ASUM passed a resolution to make the ASUM sustainability fee mandatory, which would start next fall. Students can vote on whether they want the fee to stay optional or become mandatory during the online election on April 22 and 23. The paper towel composting program is one step ASUM has made to further sustainability efforts on campus.
“In initiating this [paper towel composting] program campus wide, UM will become a step closer to making small acts of sustainability as our standard element within the campus,” Medina said.
However, there are many barriers that have to be addressed before the resolutions can be implemented, according to Emma Kiefer, chair of the Zero Waste Board.
According to Kiefer and Medina, UM’s custodians have a contract with the University that specifies what they clean and when. The custodial union would have to vote on whether workers should set aside the paper towels for composting in every bathroom on campus. For the resolution to be put into effect, the janitorial staff and the University of Montana would have to reach an additional agreement about raising workers’ salaries to reflect the increased labor.
If the student body passes the resolution and the custodial staff approves of it, the resolution then goes to UM’s administration. If approved, it then would go into effect. Medina said that the Missoula Compost Company has agreed to compost the paper towels. This would cost each building approximately $48 a month. Funding for composting would be sourced from Facilities Services. However, Medina said she would push for UM’s administration to subsidize the costs for the Paper Towel Compost Program.
Both Medina and Kiefer are hopeful the paper towel composting program will be implemented within a year, Medina said.
“There are still a lot of barriers and hurdles to jump over, particularly with the custodians contract with the University, but we’re hoping that some type of compromise can be reached,” Kiefer said.