Recycle: Easier Said Than DoneAuthor: Elyette Yert | Filed under: BGSU, Enterprise Story, Spring 2012
By Elyette Yert
Bowling Green State University gives students 900 recycling bins at 250 locations including dorm rooms, administrative buildings, classrooms and outside, according to the BGSU Recycling Center.
Programs such as Green Tailgating and Recyclemania also promote recycling on campus; however, improvements in the amount of student participation still need to be made.
BGSU Director of Environmental Programs Gary Silverman said BGSU received a 78 out of 100 regarding sustainability. BGSU Sustainability Director Nicholas Hennessey said BGSU is also seen as average to above average with recycling in the dorms, according to results from Recyclemania and conversations with sustainability coordinators at other universities.
“Students are very compliant when it’s convenient for them,” Silverman said.
This can be seen at one of the biggest events for recycling, which occurs during tailgating at football games. A group of students hand out garbage bags to collect the bottles and cans, Silverman said. The recyclables are then picked up with a golf cart and given to the recycler.
Environmental Educator at the Wood County Solid Waste District Amanda Gamby said students collected up to 1 1/2 tons of recyclables at these games.
Another big event called the Recyclemania contest takes place each year and promotes recycling across the country, Hennessy said. Each spring states across the United States and Canada report the amount of trash recycled during a period of eight weeks, according to the Recyclemania website. The colleges are ranked in different categories per capita.
Recyclemania Program Manager Alec Cooley said in general, many students do take advantage of Recyclemania, but it’s different on every campus. At BGSU, Kohl Hall won this year by recycling over 15 pounds per person, Hennessy said.
“People do something because it speaks to their values,” Cooley said. “By framing recycling in competition we make it more meaningful and relevant to their lives. It gets them to develop habits that they will carry on for the rest of their lives.”
To get more involved with recycling, students can also join groups such as Net Impact, Environmental Service Club and Environmental Action Group. In particular, Net Impact is an international nonprofit organization with a mission to inspire, educate, and equip individuals to use the power of business to create a more socially and environmentally sustainable world, according to the Net Impact website.
Net Impact is among the top 14 percent of chapters worldwide to achieve gold status, according to the BGSU College of Business website. This is based on the chapter’s performance in the last academic year. They also have been recognized as the university’s best new student organization in 2011.
Recycling goes beyond just BGSU; the city and county are also involved as well. The Wood County Solid Waste District confirms that 90 percent of Wood County residents have access to recycling; they provide bins for them, fund 16 satellites locations for rural areas and assist companies for grants from the state. The Wood County Solid Waste District also has a partnership with the elementary school and high school as well as with BGSU, Gamby said.
The Wood County Solid Waste District provides per capita grants for communities on a yearly basis. BGSU receives a $6,000 grant specifically for recycling, Gamby said.
Recycling has both benefits and costs. Some of the benefits of recycling include reducing resource use as well as energy use, Silverman said. The main cost of recycling involves inconvenience. This means students have to go out of their way to recycle. Three dollars of every student’s general annual fee is used to aid the BGSU recycling program, according to the BGSU website.
The benefits definitely outweigh the costs, Hennessy said. Recycling makes money for the program and keeps the materials out of landfills, which is good for the environment and saves money. Student Paper Inc. in Toledo buys BGSU’s commodities and pays the school per pound, Hennessy said.
The recycling program at BGSU is one of the oldest in the state of Ohio and became a formal recycling program because of the
students, Hennessy said. Since 1994, the recycling program sold over more than $390,000 in recyclable materials and avoided over $400,000 in landfill fees, according to the BGSU Recycling Center.
Although there are all these opportunities and benefits, we are not at 100 percent participation, Silverman said. We need to help convey the message that it’s easier to recycle than it is to throw away your trash, Hennessy said in an email. We also need to conduct more contests between halls because that seems to increase student participation, Hennessy said in an email.
“Recycling needs to become more of a culture and we aren’t quite there yet,” Silverman said. “The overall visibility of sustainability efforts on campus needs to become a norm.”
“There is plenty of room for increasing the participation level and that is what the whole educational aspect of recycling is about,” Hennessy said in an email. “It’s what we need to work on.”
Although there are some students who don’t take advantage of the recycling opportunities given to them, there are many that do. Senior Theresa Thompson said she recycles on a regular basis.
“It’s good for the environment and it’s convenient enough,” Thompson said. “It doesn’t take a lot of time to be responsible.”
To improve recycling opportunities on campus BGSU should offer all in one recycling bins and more places for mass recycling to be available, Thompson said. More bins should also be available in the residence halls as well as more encouraging signs about recycling, Thompson said.
“The choice to recycle is really up to the individual,” Hennessy said. “Education needs to be able to meet with motivation.”