In efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19, the University of Dallas has opted for disposable alternatives to many reusable items. But as trash cans around campus fill up with recyclables, students are left wondering about the evident lack of recycling at UD.
According to Jerry Haba, head of facilities at UD, it is just not cost effective for the university to offer recycling options.
It is important to note that the facilities department still recycles objects such as tires, batteries, lightbulbs, grease, metal and motor oil, but the day-to-day recyclables such as cardboard, paper and plastic are not publicly available for students to recycle.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), data collected in 2017 revealed the previous generation had amassed a total of 267.8 million tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) over a 30-year period, the average American producing a little over four and a half pounds per day. Out of this waste, approximately 94 million tons of MSW was recycled, equal to a 35.2% recycle and compost rate.
Greg Vanderheiden, president of the environmental conservation organization (ECO), said that incorrect sorting of recycling can lead to fines, which disincentivizes facilities from offering recycling on campus.
“Facilities wants to do it; the problem is whenever things get recycled incorrectly, they get charged money,” Vanderheiden said.
With the consistent charges due to incorrect sorting of recyclables, facilities stopped paper and cardboard recycling around two years ago.
In response, the UD ECO took action to ensure that paper recycling was still available to the students, placing recycling bins around campus, for which they were responsible.
“We had specific recycle bins throughout campus that we would take care of, and then once, or several times a week, we’d go empty those and the members of our club would actually sort through it and pull out the things that could be recycled and couldn’t be recycled.”
Vanderheiden continues on, advocating for more than just student activism when it comes to recycling.
“It needs to be started from higher up, because whenever you have students like me or everybody else who’s part of ECO trying to do things, we can be passionate and we can be helpful but it’s hard to rely on us because we are trying to be students, we are trying to find jobs, doing whatever students do, it’s not very conducive to being a regular system that will work super well.”
The UD Rome program has also had difficulties establishing a recycling program. Recycling is mandatory in Italy, and the university was threatened with huge fines when students did not sort it correctly. In response, the Rome program now mandates a training session for all students to learn about the differences in recycling bins, which include paper, glass, organic matter, metal and non-recyclable waste.
“If we look at the Rome campus, their recycling program is very extensive and they have worked hard to make sure the students follow it really well,” said Vanderheiden.
Vanderheiden wrapped up the conversation on the importance of recycling by stressing the need for faculty involvement to establish a system of recycling on campus.
“I think individually, almost everybody within the administration within facilities wants to be able to help, I think they just have a lot on their plates as well, and this is something that is on the back burner, when maybe it shouldn’t be,” Vanderheiden said.
With the lack of recycling opportunities becoming more apparent on campus, various students have spoken up about the issue.
“There is not enough awareness of the status of recycling at UD,” Lauren Hill, sophomore computer science and art major, said. “It’s a shame knowing the amount of things we consume each day are directly harming the environment.”
“I personally think the recycling at UD is absolutely lacking,” sophomore English major Elsa Feltl said. “I think the next step is to organize a way to sort our campus recycling properly and provide more information to all community members. Most importantly, we need to start caring about how we treat the campus we live on.”