In her on-campus apartment, Maddie Nolan watches as waste management organizes recycling bins into trash cans. Disheartened, she begins to wonder if recycling actually works on campus.
This happened during my sophomore and junior years at USI and the problem continues today.
Are recyclable items on campus recycled?
Recycling is a very nebulous concept on campus. Few students or faculty know how the USI recycling system works. To make matters worse, many of them don’t know where their trash actually goes.
Maddie Nolan, senior major in geology and president of the Geology and Environmental Sciences Club, said:
“When I lived in an on-campus apartment, there was a recycling bin by the trash can, and it was there for about two weeks and was gone for the rest of the semester. of recycling bins in the trash and nothing was really segregated,” says Nolan. “There is nothing more confusing than realizing that nothing is being recycled.”
Chase DeBruyn is a senior environmental science major and chair of the SGA Environmental Committee. He feels that the recycling process on campus is too vague. “I don’t know if it’s actually recycled. From what I’ve seen, all the trucks out there look like he’s one type. I don’t know what they’re doing.”
DeBruyn said he was unsure how recycling and trash were collected and sorted not just on campus but in Evansville’s recycling program. ,” said DeBruyn. “I spoke to Maddy Nolan about it and she said, ‘I don’t know where it’s going.’ That information wasn’t really given to us, so I don’t know either.”
The bigger problem of waste management
Recycling is only part of the problem. On-campus students generate a significant amount of waste every day, and the amount is increasing. Not only is most of this waste generally not recycled, but very little effort is being made to reduce waste and reuse items on campus.
“Especially on a campus of this size, we generate a lot of waste,” says Nolan. “It’s not a huge campus, but it still produces a significant amount of waste. A lot of it is recyclable and it’s not. A lot of people are like, ‘Oh, instead of recycling this My small decision to throw it away isn’t going to make a big difference’. occurs. Therefore, basically no recycling takes place on campus. ”
DeBruyn says: The recycling part is not as important as reducing the use of these types of materials. Because if we keep recycling things, the system that produces those plastics will perpetuate. Recycling is not as important as using less. ”
Geology professor Paul Doss feels that recyclability shouldn’t just start with reducing waste. Because I don’t even want to have things that need to be recycled.”
Doss has devoted much of his career to educating people about the 3 Rs of waste, but his efforts are failing as people continue to consume more and more recyclable materials such as single-use plastics. I feel that it is over, but it is.
Like DeBruyn and Nolan, Doss doesn’t know how recycling works on campus.
According to Doss, the ideal recycling system would be for trucks to pick up recycling bins and take them to a transfer station. There, these materials are classified as paper, cardboard, aluminum and plastic. These materials are sold to businesses where they can be turned into raw materials and reused to make new products. However, he is skeptical that the recycling process on campus will actually work this way.
“I don’t know if it will happen,” Doss said. “Nothing. If you stick your head in the trash cans here, you’ll see signs of a lot of people throwing trash.”
So how does campus recycling actually work?
“Our administrative staff We frequently find food waste and other trash in our dumpsters,” said Miles Mann, the facility’s director of operations and planning. “Then the entire container has to go into the waste stream.”
The USI operates as a “single stream recycling program,” according to Mann, where all recyclables are collected in one bin, loaded onto one truck, transported to a facility, and sorted into commodity streams. and sold to the market. Recyclables are then processed into raw materials that can be used to manufacture new products.
USI recycles paper, plastic, cardboard and aluminum. These items can be placed in the blue recycling container and other labeled recycling bins located on campus and in on-campus housing. Depending on location, containers are collected daily or weekly and placed in an 8-yard recycling dumpster. The Recycle Bin is emptied 2-3 times a week.
“A recycling program is as good or bad as the people who use it,” says Mann. “When someone dumps trash or other non-recyclable materials into a trash can or bin, the entire batch goes to a landfill instead of a recycling plant.”
USI recyclable resources are collected by Republic Services and transported to Tri-State Resource and Recovery. Mann said it costs a lot for the university to recycle as much as it does to transport the trash. From recycled materials he says the only revenue USI makes is from batteries and scrap metal, which is recycled through a local “scrap yard” called Fligeltaub Recycling. Profits from battery and scrap metal recycling go directly to the cost of USI’s recycling activities.
“In my experience, students have promoted recycling efforts on campus and in their homes,” says Mann.
How Students Recycle and Become Better Consumers
Mr Doss said ignorance and the growing waste problem in general are a major cause of the ignorance surrounding our recycling systems.
“Ignorance is not a negative word. It means unawareness,” Doss said. “On this campus, we know how it works and we expect it to work. hand, I know the transit station doesn’t have the capacity to handle it. So when you get a ton of recycling littered with trash, you have to take it to the landfill. ”
“We claim we are in crisis mode, but I don’t think many people really understand it.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the United States generated 292.4 million tons of municipal solid waste in 2018, with 146.1 million tons going to landfills. Of the 146.1 million tons landfilled, 24.14% was food waste, 18.46% was plastic and 11.78% was paper and paperboard waste.
Doss said the waste situation may never improve because he doesn’t believe people will consciously change their lifestyles to reduce the amount of waste from their consumption. We encourage bulk buying and try to buy products with less packaging to reduce the amount of waste.
“Don’t consume too much,” said Doss. “I’m not saying I’m doing it right, but I’m saying there’s a solution. Every time you buy something with packaging that you have to throw away, think twice about it. You can’t avoid it, we create waste, and it’s natural, but it’s very possible to reduce the amount of waste that you create.Think about it every time you buy something. please give me.”
DeBruyn also agreed that while reducing waste is important, reusing is also an important step.
“A good example is a glass container of a sauce or thing that you get from a store,” he said. It’s also about making sure you’re buying products that are recyclable and understanding how recycling generally works.Many people say ‘if you put it in the trash, go to the factory’. Because I’m thinking But in many cases this is not the case. ”
“As long as there are places like Starbucks and Sick-fil-A on campus, I think it’s very wasteful and will never be truly super green,” said Nolan. Even if we don’t count the amount of paper we process, our food choices alone create a great deal of waste every day.”
Recycling is not the ultimate solution to waste management on campus or in the world, but students should take steps to reduce the amount of materials they use, reuse materials after first use, and recycle materials properly. can be taught.
It’s also important to note that recyclables must be clean and not all types of plastic can be recycled. USI accepts PET (#1), HDPE (#2), PP (#5), others (#7)Before recycling plastic containers, check the triangle on the bottom of the product to see what kind of plastic it is.
Do not mix garbage with recycling. All other recyclability in the Recycle Bin is compromised.
Doss warns of what can happen if you act too late. “It’s going to be crisis management,” he said. “Things may fall apart, crises, and action may take place. One thing is certain, I am old. I will die. You won’t become mine.” Children are not.”
“I hope that people will take a little more interest in this issue and be able to do their part,” Nolan said.