Be smart when it comes to throwing out trash, recycle

About 80 percent of what Americans throw away is recyclable, yet the rate of recycling in the United States is only 28 percent, according to Wayne State University’s Office of Campus Sustainability.

It seems a new report comes out every day about the devastation wrought on our planet by human consumption and waste. We are urged that this generation must make changes to save future generations from an entirely damaged Earth. We might expect our institutions of higher education to lead the charge, facilitating and encouraging that we move through this world with conscientiousness to reduce waste, to recycle.  

Laramie County Community College has punted on the opportunity to guide and foster students and faculty to adopt or maintain a lifestyle that includes recycling.  

“We have very limited recycling options on campus,” said Scott Royce, LCCC’s assistant director of Plant Operations, under which recycling operations falls.

Cost is the main reason for limited recycling efforts on campus. While it is understandable that everything comes with a cost, it is disappointing that it has not been a priority of LCCC’s to find ways to expand recycling opportunities on campus.  Royce said he is not aware of any studies that have been conducted to measure the financial impact that increased recycling may have on the Plant Operations budget — which covers the cost for any recycling done on campus.

Another reason given for limited recycling on campus was manpower.  Some individual programs on campus have spearheaded recycling efforts within buildings on a volunteer basis. These programs have orchestrated the placement of recycling containers, which they then are in charge of dumping into the major recycling containers on campus.  

Royce, who previously worked in recycling operations at the University of Wyoming, gave some insight as to why UW has a much larger recycling effort. Some of the funding comes from an additional student fee, which students voted for specifically to increase recycling opportunities. Other funding comes from the income generated from the university’s contract with Pepsi.  A small portion of funding, which mostly dried up, Royce said, came from selling recyclables.

UW’s ability to have a more expansive recycling operation should serve as an example of what might be possible at LCCC. The student population is much smaller at LCCC than UW, therefore adequate recycling options should not need to be as large as UW’s.  

I propose a couple different options to expand recycling at LCCC.  First, why not at least discuss a student fee to help offset the cost? I know that college is expensive, and students have very little disposable income as is. However, even a small fee could open the door for additional recycling around campus.  

Additionally, recycling on campus could be expanded if more individual programs choose to volunteer to take responsibility of a recycling bin in their building.  All of the major recycling containers on campus – except for one near plant operations – are for mixed recycling, so no sorting is required as long as the bins are used for recyclables only, such as plastic, paper, cardboard, etc.  If a program or individual is so inclined to take on the effort, they would need to speak to Royce to set it up.

Something as simple as breaking down cardboard boxes to take up less space in the major recycling containers can contribute to improved recycling on campus.

The point is, I think real progress could be seen if students and faculty work together to bolster the tiny recycling efforts we currently have at LCCC.  We may need to start small, but with each extra opportunity a student or faculty member has to recycle, a small impact is made on our future.

I’ll leave you with a few more recycling statistics to mull over (all provided by Wayne State University’s Office of Campus Sustainability):

  • The average American uses 650 pounds of paper each year; 100 million tons of wood could be saved each year if all that paper was recycled.
  • Every month Americans throw out enough glass bottles and jars to fill up a giant skyscraper, but all of these jars are recyclable.
  • Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to run a TV for three hours.
  • More than 20 million Hershey’s Kisses are wrapped each day, using 133 square miles of aluminum foil.  Most people don’t realize that wrapper is recyclable.
  • If all our newspapers were recycled, we could save about 250 million trees each year.

So please, recycle this newspaper when you are finished enjoying it.

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