Standing by the side of the garbage truck, I gaped as waste rained down onto the blue sheets we had laid in front of Bartlet Hall. Half eaten noodles, plastic bottles still full of water, stained pizza boxes, and plastic bags piled up to our knees. For two hours, a group of about forty Lowers separated the content in the trash and recycling dumpsters, organizing it into piles of trash, organic material, film plastic, paper, and bottles. By participating in this activity, we became aware of the shocking amount of contaminants in our dumpsters and the community’s poor consumption habits.
From the waste dumpsters of Bancroft, Bishop, Stearns, and Stevens, we collected a total of 744 pounds of trash, organic material, film plastic, paper, and bottles. About 31.32 percent of the contents in the waste bins were, in fact, recyclable. If we had not organized all of the recycling in the trash dumpsters, it would have been thrown in the landfill or incinerated. Because recycling could be used to create myriad products, we must prevent these poor disposing habits from perpetuating. For instance, Casella, a waste management company, manufactures frisbees, bags, and sunglasses made entirely out of recycled bottles. Their slogan “Give Resource a New Life” encouraged me to be more cognizant of the environment and my own contribution to global waste, forcing me to think about all the recyclable materials that piled up in the landfills over the years.
Though I know it is easier said than done, I sincerely urge students to be more mindful when disposing their waste. I acknowledge that I am also guilty of placing recyclable bottles in the trash. I, like many other students, rarely feel obligated enough to rinse plastic bottles and place them in the recycling bin. However, the Waste Audit program changed my perception of the consequences of my behavior. Thinking about the 233 pounds of recyclable materials that almost went to the landfills, I realized that we had to change our habits as a community.
I recommend that all dorms on campus implement a system in which one person brings any food waste in the dorm to Commons. From Commons, the food waste, along with any other leftovers produced by the community, can be transported to facilities where they could be converted to compost. Though this practice would significantly reduce the amount of recyclable material in the trash, it is ultimately up to the students to be more aware of the way their behavior impacts the environment and take the first step to correcting the community’s disposing habits by partaking in environmental groups on campus such as EcoAction and actively asking other students to separate recycling and trash properly. If we are deliberate about sustaining our environment, I know that in the long term our community will be able to reduce its waste output drastically.
Sparky Yoo is a new Lower from Newton Highlands, Mass.