The very newspaper you are holding is the reason this editorial was written. When you’re done with it, what are you going to do? Toss it in the trash? Leave it on a desk? Wrap a fish or two in it?
What about recycling it? If that’s your choice, how are you going to do so?
Dennis Kosta, the Custodial Manager for UTM Physical Plant estimates that 30-40 percent of all recyclable material does not make it into the program.
But the economics of a successful recycling program comes down to the bottom line. If UTM is making $5,000 to $6,000 a year for the program while paying out close to $30,000, how can it remain feasible?
Two main reasons keep the program afloat: It’s “environmental conscious” (as in, great PR for the university) and it saves money otherwise spent on dumping trash. Even if the bottom lines don’t balance, it’s a program worth defending even in a time of shrinking budgets in higher education.
One way to improve the program is having increased visibility around campus. Another is cutting down on labor costs by recruiting volunteers.
College students, as a whole, are environmentally conscious. We are interested in our future and have a deep-rooted concern for a sustainable ecosystem. Recycling is one of many ways to help perpetuate our resources. UTM students, however, are largely uninformed about the campus’s recycling program. With a few notable exceptions, bins are not labeled, and few classrooms have separate containers for aluminum cans, plastics, paper and other recyclables. If students have to look for a place to recycle, chances are it will not happen on a large scale. The 30-40 percent of recyclable goods will continue to make their way to county landfills.
In addition to be environmentally conscious, college students are also able-bodied. The custodial staff is paid to do their work, and recycling programs add on the already cumbersome burden of keeping our campus clean and presentable. Students, on the other hand, can volunteer their time to help provided there is some non-financial incentive to do so. We looked long and hard and could not find a well-organized effort on the part of students to make such a program a reality.
As an institution, there are other ways we can make our campus more environment-friendly. Sodexho Dining Hall Services and Catering could contribute food waste to a composting program. But collection and transportation of the food wastes would again have to be coordinated by students.
It all comes down to activism. We must continue to work toward the goal of reducing our waste on campus, and finding new and innovative ways to plug students into the cause.