By Casey McGloin
For most of us on campus, our thought process concerning recycling goes as far as “blue bin or green bin?” With RecycleMania approaching, that’s no attitude to have if we’re gonna win this thing. We should be more “We’ll kick some nickel cadmium butt!” and “Take that, # 2 plastics!” and…well, you get what I’m saying. Last year we came in 14th place out of 45 schools in this national contest between colleges and universities to see who can recycle the most. We also gained first place in New York State out of three schools, with a recycling rate of 29.5 percent.
Mark Darling, recycling coordinator of Ithaca College’s Resource and Environmental Management Program (REMP), has a goal of achieving a 50 percent recycling rate in the near future, and if it happens this year, that’ll be even better. “I tell students all the time,” he says, “you want to be a part of sustainability? You want to stop global warming? Recycle.”
Darling registered IC under four categories for RecycleMania 2007, which is scheduled to begin January 28 and goes through April 7. The categories are: Per Capita Classic (the school which collects the most recyclables), Waste Minimization (a reduction in the amount of waste, which includes trash and recycling), Targeted Materials – Per Capita Food Waste and Grand Champion, which encompasses results from all the other categories.
RecycleMania began in February 2001 between Ohio University and Miami University as an effort to boost the recycling efforts of the schools. To date, Miami U. has been Grand Champion for three RecycleManias. In the five contests since its inception, participation has expanded to 45 schools. This year, Darling says, “our goal is to have it reported on ESPN during the Final Four.”
In order to increase our chances of winning this year and to encourage recycling in general, REMP tries to make it as easy as possible for students to recycle by using the color-coded bins. It even posts stickers on the backs of dorm room doors delineating which items can be recycled and which cannot. You’d think this would dumb it down enough for us, but in the three years I lived in the dorms I never noticed these stickers. To remedy this problem a project is in the works to replace the stickers with doorknob signs listing recyclable materials, as doorknob signs would be more noticeable, says Darling.
REMP lists the following as items which can be recycled as paper: newspapers; catalogs and magazines; notebook, copier and computer paper; colored paper; telephone books; pamphlets and junk mail; books and cereal boxes. Often students throw magazines in the trash because of their uncertainty about whether they can be recycled, but Darling says magazines are actually important for the recycling process because of the presence of clay in their glossy pages and their ink. “Half of our trash at the end of the school year ends up being paper,” he says.
Recyclable containers at IC are listed as: metal cans, aluminum foil, heat-and-serve food pans, small batteries, glass bottles (all colors), #1 and #2 plastics and milk cartons and drink boxes. If you turn over your plastic product, inside the magic triangular recycling arrows you will find a number. This tells you which number plastic you’re holding and, hopefully, recycling.
Some products are made of mixed materials, like business envelopes with plastic address windows, tissue boxes with plastic around the opening and glass jars with paper labels. All of these items can be recycled as is; they’ll be sorted once the materials are taken to the Tompkins County Solid Waste Center. Even spiral notebooks are okay to recycle. When paper products are taken to a recycling facility, they’re dumped into a large vat of water and dissolved. A large magnet catches the metal spiral binding, as well as staples, paper clips and other metals frequently attached to paper. So don’t hesitate next time to recycle your spiral notebooks; the sorters will take care of it.
The TCSWC sorts and bales recyclable materials, which are then shipped to other facilities to be turned back into raw material. For off-campus students and other residents of Tompkins County, the center will be trying to make recycling even easier in the next couple of years by switching to a single-stream instead of a dual-stream system, says TCSWC’s recycling specialist, Skip Parr. This means residents will be able to mix plastic and paper together in a single receptacle at curbside, leaving all the sorting to the facility and increasing the number of jobs needed there. Because the majority of the sorting that takes place is done manually, Parr says the type of energy used at TCSWC is “people power.”
If it isn’t apparent yet just how much the TCSWC wants you to learn about recycling, listen to this: If you place improperly prepared recyclables or unacceptable materials in your recycling bin, they’ll leave you a note with a reason why. “We call them ‘whoops notices,’” Parr says. “It’ll say ‘Thank you for recycling, but we don’t accept Styrofoam.’”
Psyched about recycling and RecycleMania yet? Not really? What if I told you there was a way to get rid of those pesky plastic grocery bags you have forming Mt. Olym pus in your living space, while still being environmentally friendly? Wegmans and Tops will take said bags back and recycle them. Of course, if you really want to go crazy, you could buy your own cloth bags to reuse all the time, eliminating the need for grocery bags at all. According to Darling, “L.L. Bean big totes work the best.”
Other tips both Darling and Parr have to offer are to take out your recycling often—that way you have less to carry on each trip—and to call either facility if you have any questions about recycling procedures. Darling also suggests you redeem your cans and bottles at a local grocery store to get some money for them. This can be a great idea, especially if you have a party and then realize how broke you are. Earn some pocket change while contributing to our success with RecycleMania!
If the prospect of the sheer glory of winning the contest isn’t enough for you, know that there’s a trophy. It’s a chipper-looking person made of recyclable materials, created by a local artist from Carpenter, Ohio, in honor of the first RecycleMania in 2001. Everyone knows it’s all about the trophy anyway…I mean…conserving the world today to ensure a better tomorrow.
Casey McGloin is a senior writing major who avoids recycling by giving her empty cans to the homeless. Email her at email@example.com.