Last week, there was an article in the Opinions section of the Campus Times regarding EcoReps’ Kickoff Party for Recyclemania with suggestions Facilities and students “can take to further reduce the University’s footprint”. While I think the suggestions are with good intentions, we should also think about what we’ve accomplished thus far.
First off, yes, people are lazy and they want to choose the path with the least resistance and dump all their waste into the nearest bin. Although there aren’t many recycling bins outside as compared to trash, would it be beneficial to have them outside along with the trash (and really, are there that many trashcans outside anyways)? If people are too lazy to sort their trash when they’re inside, what justification do we have to assume that they’re going to sort it when they’re rushing to class in 10-degree weather?
Something a little radical to consider is would it be more beneficial to remove all the trashcans outside instead? Not having trashcans outside would force people to throw away their waste inside where the recycling bins are and the university has actually implemented significant improvements between 2010-2012 where 30 stand-alone trash containers were removed from Rush Rhees alone and donated to the City of Rochester school district and the remaining trashcans were paired with a recycling bin for paper/cardboard and a recycling bin for plastic/metal/glass.
While there weren’t trashcans removed from Wilson Commons due to the high waste volume the building amasses, all stand-alone trashcans were again paired with the recycling bins. Admittedly yes, it can be confusing to figure out where to recycle one’s waste, but we should applaud the effort undergone to make the process a lot less puzzling than it was before. All bins are now uniformly color-coded: grey or brown for trash, blue for paper and cardboard, and green for plastic metal and glass. Personally, I think this is a whole lot less confusing compared to the bins of the past that vary in size, color, and unnecessarily specific labeling.
Regarding plastic bags, a quick Google search about recycling plastic bags in Monroe County yields very vague and unimpressive results. A striking thing to notice is that Monroe County doesn’t even have the right facilities to recycle plastic bags. If they did, why would they encourage you to recycle your bags at a nearby store like Wegmans? It’s not that it’s hard to dispose plastic bags in an environmentally friendly way on this campus, it’s just plain hard to dispose plastic bags in an environmentally friendly way in this county period.
Nevertheless, there is actually a new proposed EcoRep program that will have plastic bag bins in Wilson Commons and Hillside, which will hopefully be implemented sometime soon.
The University is definitely taking steps in making recycling easier for the campus but sometimes it’s hard to realize it because not a lot of us think about what it was like before. There are definitely improvements that can be made, but also remember that recycling is only one of the three R’s. I will humbly suggest that focusing on reducing and reusing is much more likely to make environment better off compared to recycling.
Written by Linda Shackles, Class of 2017