No excuse for recycling apathy

The lack of effort by students and staff is disheartening and maddening, especially since it is relatively easy.

by Chelsey Perkins

The physical act of tossing a bottle or can into a recycling bin is no more strenuous than that of throwing it into a trash can. Of course, you might need to walk a few extra feet, or make room for the recyclable in your bag until you find the proper place to dispose of it. But these are not difficult tasks, nor are they emotionally stressful or a financial burden.

So I cannot understand for the life of me why so many people not only do not make the negligible amount of extra effort needed to recycle items like cans and bottles that are the easiest to recycle rather than trash them, but act affronted by the mere concept.

Of course, I know there are many people who do make the effort, and I also know that outside of cities with comprehensive recycling programs, it might be difficult and maybe even impossible to recycle certain items. In my own hometown, for example, there is no recycling pick-up at all, and the closest recycling drop-off no longer accepts plastic.

But here on campus, for the most part, a majority of the effort has already been made for us. If you have yet to notice, bins all over the place, compartmentalized nicely and neatly, make it possible to rid yourself of last week’s Sudoku, your empty Diet Coke bottle and the rest of that $2 burrito you couldn’t bring yourself to finish all in one go. In most classrooms I’ve been in, three separate bins stand directly next to one another, labeled clearly.

Yet I regularly see people throw recyclables into the trash even though literally a foot away they could recycle them.

A friend told me this weekend that her parents poke fun at her when she asks them to recycle; another friend of mine waited until she found a recycling bin for her newspaper and her brother asked, “So, what, are you like an environmentalist now?”

As our world faces an environmental crisis like we have never seen before, the tasks before us seem daunting and nearly unattainable and it is easy to feel helpless. It’s not as though the average person can simply waltz into Exxon Mobil and shut them down or halt clear-cutting in the Brazilian Rain Forest.

Why, then, is one of the tasks possible for an individual to complete on their own, a task that undeniably is crucial to environmental health, so often brazenly disregarded?

Even if you subscribe to the notion that humans are not the cause of global warming or could care less what happens to the planet after you’re gone, why not just put that bottle in the freaking recycling bin when it is right there in front of you?

The thing is, although it might seem like a long shot, we can as individuals make a difference for our environment by the products we buy and the sustainable habits we commit to. Collectively, we have unlimited power to make change on the environmental front.

If you feel like that one bottle will not make a difference, multiply that by the 50,000 or more people that are on this campus every day for nine months, and you can see what kind of impact can be made. Whether it’s a positive or negative one is up to you and which of the three slots you choose.

Chelsey Perkins welcomes your comments at [email protected]