The future of UD’s public recycling: to be or not to be?

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Photo by Hannah Green

The recycling program at the University of Dallas’ Irving campus is in a sorry state as UD does not currently offer public recycling, but a new program is in the works.

During my four years of being on-campus, this program has gone through varying phases, ranging from activism to disregard. Because of these disparities, the UD community struggles to understand what is actually happening in relation to recycling on campus.  

In the beginning of my freshman year, 2017-2018, UD’s public recycling was inactive due to previous budget cuts. But by the spring semester, the Sustainability Team had begun working with Jerry Haba, the head of facilities at UD, to restart the program. 

In fall 2018, the Sustainability Team, now called the Environmental Conservation Organization (E.C.O.), started using student volunteers to manually sort and transport public recycling. However, in 2019’s spring semester, E.C.O.’s officer team relocated to the Rome campus, the promised land of European-style recycling, and public recycling at the Irving campus once again died. 

Once again, in fall 2019, E.C.O. revived the program, again using volunteers to sort recycling. Later that spring, several items were incorrectly sorted, leading to contaminated loads. 

While it is difficult to tell who was recycling incorrectly, since many departments and individuals  may have been participating in recycling (Aramark, the bookstore, the mail room, and the Cap Bar, to name some), I am confident it was not our E.C.O. volunteers who caused these fines. Regardless, UD paid significant fines for contaminated recycling, so the program was cut. 

The next semester, COVID-19 hit, students left campus and so did recycling. Since then, volunteer students have stayed motivated, volunteering to dispose of others’ recyclables on their own time. 

The Dean of Students, Julia Carrano, and Resident Coordinator Sarah Baker recently contacted me to once more revive the public recycling program. Hopefully this new program will be a long-lived one with more support from the administration.

“Ultimately, we’d like recycling to become embedded in the culture of UD, something that is seen as an intrinsic part of our mission and our care for God’s creation,” said Carrano.

Though it seems simple from the outside, there are many moving pieces that need to work together to implement a lasting recycling system. We  believe that we currently have many of those necessary pieces in order to begin recycling on the Irving campus.

We are currently negotiating a recycling contract with Balcones Recycling and hope that the contract will be signed soon. Though public recycling will be very limited for the time being, this contract will mean that UD has another shot at lessening our environmental impact and caring for the world around us in the future.  

If you care about continuing recycling into the future, make sure to follow the instructions (which we plan to make very obvious and accessible) very carefully and encourage others to do the same.

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