The fate of recyclables on campus

by Jared Crain, Campus Carrier Deputy News Editor

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Sophomore Jeremy Foss drops a plastic water bottle into one of the campus recycle bins.

Students cannot walk into a building on campus without spotting at least one blue or green recycle bin. Nonetheless, many on campus don’t know what happens after they toss their empty bottles into the bins.

Students generally tend to agree on the matter that recycling is essential for promoting healthy ecological habits and contributing to a generational movement to minimize our waste.

President of Students Against Violating the Earth (SAVE), Elle Carver, said that the incentive to recycle on campus has still been reduced heavily due to the fact that contaminated recycle bins, even when items are merely covered with a bit of food residue, must be tossed in their entirety.

“It can be a real bummer,” Carver said. “You can recycle your stuff and do all the right things, but if someone else came in and threw food waste on it, they may just throw it all away.”

Even though some students believe that we can fix this problem just by throwing recyclables in the recycling bins and garbage in the garbage bins, others recognize that the problem goes beyond usage of the appropriate bins.

Junior Ethan Milam, a Gate Scholar who works closely with carbon neutrality and sustainability on campus, explained that entire recycling bins go to waste if any wrong items are thrown into them.

“When people put things in the recycling bins that are not recyclable, like oily, food-contaminated pizza boxes, then they have to throw away the entire recycling bin, because it’s considered contaminated,” Milam said. “The recycling center (Rome/Floyd County Recycling) won’t take it, because it is not recyclable.”

Eddie Elsberry, director of environmental compliance and sustainability, explained that only certain items are accepted into the recycling center as recyclables. These items include paper products, such as newspaper, magazines, paperboard and cardboard; plastic bottles, such as milk and soda containers; and aluminum and steel cans.

Items that cannot be recycled include glass, styrofoam, batteries, CDs, and food and liquid waste and residue.

Elsberry explained that if the recyclables and non-recyclables are mixed, no item can be recycled.

“If we can stay with these products (recyclables) we will have 100% recycle rate,” Elsberry said. “If we have any of the non-recycled items in the load it will be rejected and go to the landfill, and we have a 0% recycle rate on that load.”

Milam does explain that Berry is becoming more involved with Recyclemania, a separate nationwide recycling organization that focuses on e-waste, like computers, printer cartridges and other electronics. Nonetheless, electronics placed into the bins around campus cannot be recycled, which results in the whole bin being thrown away instead.

He also recognizes that Berry recycles cardboard well at the beginning of the school year.

“During the first week of move in, a good thing that Berry does is have the big cardboard-sanctioned taped-off areas outside of the dorms,” Milam said.

Through SAVE, Carver not only encourages other students to clean recyclables before placing them into bins, but also advocates more for the elimination of too much waste in the first place.

“I encourage people to reduce their waste,” she said. “It would be better if we could just stop buying and using so much stuff.”

Zachary Taylor, professor of environmental science, also encourages the acts of reduction and reuse of items over recycling. He still emphasizes that all three options, reducing, reusing and recycling, can make an impact.

“Recycling is certainly preferable to throwing something away because it can save energy, resources, and landfill space, but it is not a perfect solution,” Taylor said. “Reducing consumption and reusing items are more beneficial, and it’s far better to not make as much (waste).”


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