Do you feel a pinch of guilt every time you drop your garbage into the trashcan? Do you occasionally place your food wrappers or plastics in the recycling bin in hopes that it will be recycled somehow? If so, you’re like many other Hope College students, according to my recent informal observations of our campuses’ recycling bins.
According to a 2016 report by Waste Management, Hope currently maintains less than an 11% waste diversion rate. This pales in comparison to Pepperdine’s 78%, Brown University’s 59% and American University’s goal to be 100% waste-free, according to thebestcolleges.org. Perhaps our Hope community holds a limited understanding of how to divert its waste. When many see small blue bins with the signature recycling symbol, they associate them solely with paper disposal. To the surprise of many, this is a dated lens for understanding recycling. Ever since Hope adopted single stream recycling in 2013, those blue bins in campus buildings and dorm rooms accept CLEAN plastics, metals and cardboard in addition to various forms of paper products. Single stream recycling allows individuals to place all recyclable materials into one bin, which is collected, then separated within a material recovery facility.
The upside of the development of single stream recycling is the ease of disposal for you! Rather than each of us sorting out paper from metals, metals from plastics, etc. Everything is sorted out through advanced machinery. The downside is that we commit “wishful recycling,” assuming that anything that seems recyclable can go in the bin. This results in a contaminated stream of recyclables that are too hard to separate from non-recyclables, and the entire load ends up in the landfill anyway. If your item is plastic, scan it for the recycling triangle. This indicates that this product is allowed for recycling. Another simple rule is to check that your materials are clear of food or beverage remnants. Lastly, if grease stains or coffee mark your paper plate or cup, consider locating a compost bin on campus, such as those in the Kletz, to dispose of your waste rather than contaminating the recycling or adding it to the trash.
In an effort to improve campus recycling rates, Hope College’s Physical Plant teamed up with the Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute and Green Hope in order to launch “Hope Recycles Week” from Monday Nov. 14 through Wednesday Nov. 16. This kick-off week, inspired by the nationally recognized “America Recycles Day” on Nov. 15 aims to celebrate and promote recycling! “Hope Recycles Week” serves as part of a larger campus-wide campaign to improve recycling in dorms and cottages.
Be on the lookout for pop up “Hope Recycles Week” tables at Phelps, DeWitt, Cook and the science center! We are encouraging everyone around campus to wear green on Tuesday Nov. 15 to show your support. Stop by the tables for engagement activities, a chance to win prizes and plenty of tips and information for recycling at Hope Tables will also offer a “Sustainability Pledge” for students to sign as a commitment to lessen their ecological footprint through energy and water conservation, use of alternative transportation and more. To wrap up America Recycles Day on Nov. 15, the Living Sustainably Along the Lakeshore series will showcase national and local experts at an event called “I Didn’t Know I Could Recycle That?!” from 6:30-8 p.m. at the Herrick District Library, 300 South River Ave. Don’t hesitate to get involved in learning! Together, with education and a hint of intentionality, we can put Hope College on the map as a campus that prioritizes recycling. Team work makes the dream work.