Devolved: Recycling on Campus
Trash Bins Don’t Complete the Cycle
Published: Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, March 20, 2013 16:03
Recycling was, perhaps, every child’s introduction to environmental activism. We first learned about it in school, and probably during the upcoming Earth Week, maybe in a science class. We learned about trash – how some things are biodegradable, how some things aren’t. We did “experiments” in class, to see how soon certain materials turn back into dirt. The result? Banana peels: one week. Plastic Coke bottles: like, never.
Our schools did a decent job of ingraining the advantages of recycling in us at an early age. So much so that, over a decade after “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” was introduced to us, at least one of the Three Rs has become second nature. Recycling recyclables is as natural now to many of us as any other daily routine – putting on pants, brushing your teeth and locking your car doors.
Personally, recycling is such a normal part of life that when I am forced to not recycle recyclable goods, it feels like my gears are jamming. I have a subconscious reluctance to throwing bottles and cans in regular trashcans, yet in some instances I simply don’t have an option.
My roommates and I here in Fargo recycle everything we can. Paper, cardboard, glass, plastic, aluminum, and tin – each have their separate bin in our back yard. So when I come to campus and find a severe lack of recycling facilities, it never ceases to make me balk.
Schools – the institutions that ingrained the habits of recycling in us in the first place – should, therefore, be the main facilitators of such actions. All through elementary and high school, bins for the recycling of all the various goods were always available. Yet here at NDSU, we have a distinct lack of opportunity to engage in this most basic form of environmental activism.
Right here in the Union where my office sits, is perhaps the best place for recycling on campus. There is an ample number of bins placed strategically throughout the building. Some bins even have signs placed above them, quoting some seemingly admirable stats about how effective the Union’s recycling program is.
One of these signs recently caught my attention. Summed up, it said that the Union contributed to a very outsized portion of all recycling on campus last year. While that statistic looks great for the Union, it does not say much for the rest of campus. For the Union itself is only one building on a campus that has dozens – surely it should not have such a weighted portion of the whole campus’ recycled goods?
But then I began to think as I walked through a few other buildings. There was a distinct lack of recycling bins in other places. The more I thought, the more I realized that the Union was far and a way the only good place for recycling on campus.
It’s a problem I have encountered in two places that I frequent. I serve a work-study job at the library as a student assistant at the circulation desk. As a part of my job, I am required to complete tasks all over the library building. In my daily routines there, I have come to the realization that the one and only recyclable good at the library is paper. Though hundreds of students, staff and faculty move through the library every day, they are forced to throw away all of their glass, plastic and aluminum.
The other place I find myself most often is the downtown campus, particularly in Klai and Renaissance Halls. Here, we once again see a distinct lack of recycling facilities. Facilities Maintenance in both the architecture and landscape architectures studios, the students have gone so far as to use their own initiative to recycle. Both AIAS and ASLA have set up recycling facilities – for all recyclable goods – and also maintain and empty the bins they have set up.
This should not be a job for student groups to take care of. While the efforts of AIAS and ASLA are admirable, they should not have been necessary in the first place. There is no reason NDSU should not make the necessary adjustments to facilitate as common and necessary a habit as recycling.
And if you don’t think recycling is necessary, allow me to refer you to the third grade teachers at, well, every elementary school in the country. I’m sure they could give you a refresher.
Nathan is a senior majoring in landscape architecture. Follow him on twitter @nwstottler.