Last spring I commented on the amount of waste generated when students move out for the year. Over the weekend our students moved back to the campus of Lasell College and settled into their residence halls. I was shocked to observe the amount of waste generated during this process.
It was overwhelming. Our buildings and grounds crew had their hands full. They even had to rent extra dumpsters to handle the massive pulse in waste. While I didn't dive into the dumpster to catalog what was being thrown away, I did observe a large amount of cardboard making its way into the dumpster.
I can understand why there was so much cardboard. Students need a way to transport their books and belongings back to campus and cardboard is a good option. What was disappointing was observing most of this cardboard making its way into the dumpster. While recycling is still lacking on campus, we do have cardboard recycling. Despite this, most of the cardboard made its way to the trash. It was clear that we have not yet created a culture where recycling is the first thought that comes to mind.
If I am in a situation where recycling is not available I will keep the material until I can recycle it. I have a stack of paper in my office waiting to be carried home so I can recycle it. When I am walking around Boston and purchase a soft drink I will carry the bottle home with me if I can't find a recycling bin. This is the type of thinking we need all of our community members to have. On move-in day recycling was not immediately visible so students threw the cardboard in the trash. The college will be doing more in the coming weeks to make recycling more visible and convenient yet students, faculty, and staff must also do their part to make sure we recycle every piece of material we can.
Our recycling rate is low right now. Once the new recycling system is in place, we have the potential to reach recycling rates as high as 40% as done at Harvard and other institutions. But to do this is not only going to take more receptacles across campus but also a willingness from every student, faculty, and staff member to seek out these receptacles and keep every recyclable item out of the trash.