By JESS FORTE
UT is beginning a green streak by instilling a recycling program in the Vaughn Center. Recycling bins have been placed in each trash room in the hall, giving students the opportunity to conveniently help save the environment.
Student coordinators Elizabeth Gallagher and Christina Muyshondt, two members of the Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC), are currently in charge of the program.
“As an environmental organization on campus, we are constantly looking for ways to continue improving sustainability practices at UT,” Gallagher, the former president of SEAC, said. “One of the most frequently requested improvement projects was a more accessible recycling system for the residence halls.”
Gallagher explained that this “trial” period for the program will last the entire first semester, and the program is easy for students to be a part of.
“We at UT participate in what is called ‘single stream recycling,’ meaning the students do not have to sort their recyclables, [which takes] an additional step out. All they have to do is separate trash from recyclables,” Gallagher said.
Brianna Mercer, a senior criminal justice major and Vaughn RA, believes that students are really enjoying the program.
“Right now we’re having a floor-wide contest,” she said. “We’re going to tally all the stuff up and see who recycled the most. The residents really like it.”
One part of the program that makes it easier for Vaughn residents is the special bags that they are given to carry their recyclable items to the trash room when needed.
These paper bags “have printed directions of what can and cannot be recycled on them, which has aided in the educational piece of this program and also aided in getting the students used to sorting their waste,” Gallagher said.
Another benefit from the bags is that they are also made out of recycled paper, and can be reused until they become worn out, when they can then be recycled.
“The residents really like that they can put their recyclables in the bag and continue to use it,” Mercer said.
Lauren Mansfield, a freshman biochemistry major and Vaughn resident, isn’t too familiar with the program.
“I know that there’s a recycling bin in the trash room. It isn’t usually full. There’s usually a lot of cardboard boxes around it,” she said. “I don’t separate my recyclables from the trash here, but I do at home.”
As with any pilot program, there are always a few kinks that have to be worked out for the program to be run more smoothly. Mercer believes a strong partnership with the Facilities Dept. needs to be forged in order to maximize the best possible results from the program. Facilities was unavailable for comment.
“I would want [Facilities] to be more on board. They deal with the trash as well,” Mercer said. “If you have 48 residents trying to use one recycling bin, it overflows and no one wants to put anything in it.”
This issue could lead residents to walk to the other side of the hall and force them to use the other trash room to recycle, or not separate their trash if they see that the bin is full. Mansfield believes that the addition of more recycling bins throughout the hall would make students more motivated to use the program.
“We don’t have any type of garbage cans by the elevators, and I think that would definitely help,” she said. “If they’re finished with a water bottle, for example, they can just throw it in there on their way to class.”
Dean of Students Stephanie Krebs has been pleased with how the program is going. “I have been very impressed by the leadership and passion of the Student Environmental Action Coalition,” she said. “They have worked hard to coordinate this pilot along with the support of the UT facilities department. I look forward to hearing how the pilot positively impacts our campus.”
Jess Forte can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.