I have spent four out of the past six Wednesdays tabling for the recycling game. The recycling game is a game that teaches people how to correctly dispose of waste. Due to global market changes, many recycling rules have been changing, including here in Monroe County. This leaves people confused about whether to throw away or recycle their waste. The game teaches people which items are recyclable and which are trash in order to lower the possibility of contamination. Throughout my time tabling I was surprised by many of people’s assumptions and ideas surrounding waste disposal.
Many students were noticeably afraid to play the game because they thought we would judge them for their lack of knowledge, when in reality the game is meant for educational purposes and is supposed to encourage people to learn the new recycling rules. However, I was surprised by how unfamiliar some students were with the rules that I thought were well-known and obvious, like styrofoam being trash and not recyclable. I also thought it was common knowledge not to recycle an item with food or liquid in it before cleaning it, but I was also surprised by many student’s misconceptions about this. After doing some research, I learned that every municipality in the United States creates their own recycling rules. This is why some students looked at the bottom of each item to find a recycling symbol with a number inside of it- in many areas these numbers tell the consumer if the item can be recycled, but in my municipality these numbers are meaningless, and they are in Monroe County as well. The wide variety of rules across the country causes misinformation and confusion.
Overall, every person has different information based on where they are from and whether or not they recycled before coming to college. Americans are largely misinformed about how to recycle, and those who are educated about the rules in their individual municipalities may be completely lost in another part of the country, or even in another part of their home state. While recycling isn’t the best solution to waste disposal, it is better than sending everything to the landfill. I encourage everyone to learn more about the rules where they live, and to spread the word.
Written by Isabel Lieberman, Class of 2021.