Students walking into Wilson Commons last week no doubt saw the party being thrown by EcoReps and Greenspace, among others, to kick off RecycleMania, a 10-week challenge in which colleges across the country compete to reduce waste and encourage recycling on campus. This year, the kickoff of RecycleMania coincides with the University’s recognition by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its “success in its national WasteWise program,” according to UR Communications.
The University is party to a number of national pledges and programs, such as WasteWise and RecycleMania, meant to make the campus greener and reduce its environmental footprint. The University and its students clearly care about the environment and want to do their part to protect it. The University’s efforts are laudable enough to be recognized by the EPA, but there are still small steps Facilities and students can take to further reduce the University’s footprint.
Recycling at UR is obviously not as good as it can be. Recyclable items can be found in almost every trash can on campus. Part of this is about awareness, but part of it is also about laziness. People want to get rid of trash in hand as soon as possible, but if that trash is recyclable and there’s no recycling bin in sight, they will opt for the trash can. People choose the path of least resistance. This is why trash cans along every sidewalk on campus are full of recyclable bottles and cans. Recycling bins are especially scant outside (as are trash cans in general), so people holding trash while walking outside will not wait to recycle.
Not only are trash cans scarce in certain stretches of campus, but in buildings that are full of them, such as Wilson Commons, the disposal receptacles are inconsistent and confusing. In the Pit alone, there are five different receptacles for disposing of trash and recyclables. There is no clear system for what to put where. Students should learn what is recyclable, but it shouldn’t be a puzzle to figure out how to recycle one’s waste.
Another major inconsistency is the placement of a fourth necessary type of recycling bin: one for plastic bags. Everyone knows what to do with paper, hard plastic and metal, and theoretically where to put these things, but disposing of plastic bags in an environmentally-friendly way is not so easy on this campus. Select residence halls and buildings, such as Burton and Crosby, have bins to recycle plastic bags, but these are rarely used and even more rarely emptied. It should be easier for students to dispose of plastic bags, and all recyclables, on this campus, especially around dining halls and Hillside POD.