By Brittany Jarret
Recycling does not make a difference in the world if it is not done right.
Many people are aware of recycling and the benefits it has on earth, and locally people can see some of the differences recycling has made in the community.
In Tallahassee the three main college campuses promote recycling. However, the majority of people are still uneducated about the recycling process and how to do it correctly.
Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University, Florida State University and Tallahassee Community College are the three main college campuses in the area. Each of these campuses have their own way of implementing recycling and showing the importance of proper procedures.
All three institutions share one main problem when it comes to recycling: contamination. This happens when liquids or foods have spread onto the actual recyclable goods in a bin causing them to no longer be useful and possibly trash.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, when certain items are put in the recycling bin that can’t be recycled, they can contaminate the whole recycling stream.
“After these unrecyclable items arrive at recycling centers, they can cause costly damage to the equipment. Additionally, after arriving at recycling centers, they must be sorted out and then sent to landfills, which raises costs for the facility,” according to the EPA website. “That is why it is important to check with your local recycling provider to ensure that they will accept certain items before placing them into a bin. Some items may also be accepted at retail locations or other at local recycling centers.”
This same process is typically how it works at FAMU, FSU and TCC. So when contamination occurs, the schools suffer a great loss of product that could have been used to recycle like intended.
In some cases, if the batch has reoccurring amounts of containments, then the entire batch will be thrown in a landfill to reduce time and more importantly, costs.
Jason Peters is the TCC facilities operations superintendent whose job — among others — is to ensure specific marketing strategies are set in place to prevent contamination. Examples of these strategies are basic tools like signage and color coding.
“Most areas have a recycling bin and trash can. A lot of times people are just too fast at what they are doing, or too preoccupied with their cellphones, and they are not paying attention to which can they are dropping stuff inside of,” said Peters.
D’ante Allen, FAMU’s recycling coordinator, has found the passion in what he does and is extremely driven by being granted the opportunity to contribute to making the environment more sustainable through recycling.
“For one you have mold, maggots and different things like that, and people have to physically sort and go through these things to actually take the recycled products out, so that’s one of the biggest problems,” Allen said in regards to food contamination in recycling.
A Learning Process
When the same problems are constantly reoccurring, entities begin noticing patterns and quickly try to come up with solutions. If students are unaware that even the slightest bits of left-over food are damaging to recyclable goods, then it will continue to occur until they are taught or shown otherwise.
The more these recycling departments publicly distinguish what is acceptable and what is not, the more people will learn what to add to recycling and what not to add.
Article IX, Section 7 of the Florida Constitution was amended in 2002 to establish a statewide system of governance for all Florida public universities, according to the Florida Department of Education.
Due to several state laws like that one, implementing courses at the university level requires a tedious process that is not always feasible. This is why there are none that focus solely on recycling or cover it very in depth.
However, most universities do incorporate recycling in their environmental health/science classes.
To remain proactive, recycling departments at these universities use strategies like marketing, creating clubs/organizations, programs and initiatives to sustain the recycling culture on campus.
Florida State University has incorporated the FSU Sustainable Campus department to promote sustainable living and resource conservation on campus.
Their goal is to provide learning experiences that not only students, but also faculty and staff may produce, apply and initiate into practice at FSU, as well as the surrounding communities.
Morgan Dobbins is currently the social media coordinator for the FSU Sustainable Campus department.
“All of our programs offer different things, they are all inclusive,” said Dobbins in an interview. “Garnet and Gold Goes Green (one of the programs under the department) is a lot of fun because it gives students the access to athletics by football game day recycling.”
TCC has focused on marketing strategies and increasing the number of outdoor recycling bins around its campus.
“We had well over 100 trash cans, and I’d say we have cut that down in half by switching to single stream recycling,” said Peters.
Getting Students to Go Green
Trinity Bond is the newly elected Student Government Association President at TCC. She has a lot planned for her 2019-20 tenure, and helping the student body go green is on her to-do list.
“I want to set a plan and foundation for recycle bins here at TCC. I want to do an event to have awareness for it. This will help out with social events here and it will also raise awareness on how much recycling can actually do for the environment when done right,” said Bond.
FAMU has implemented recycling in strategic locations to ensure it’s convenient for everyone and in desired places. The recycling department would like to increase advertising to ensure people also have access to the knowledge of recycling and how to do so properly right on their very own campus.
“More frequent advertising like being on the Set, that’s one of the places that everybody likes to hang out, so let’s make recycling a hangout thing, too. If we are able to get out there weekly just to get them to be familiar so we can become chess players in the game, then so be it,” said Allen.
According to the FSU Sustainable Campus site, in 2016 FSU was able to recycle 52+ tons of office paper, 77+ tons of cardboard, and 35+ tons of plastics, cans and bottles.
FAMU managed to collect about 1,100 pounds of materials in a year for the GameDay Recycling Challenge, a national competition among universities to reduce and recycle waste at football games.
In Tallahassee recycling pick-up is on the same day as your garbage pick-up, according to the Leon County website. If you live outside the city limits, you can request pickup or use one of the drop-off sites that are listed on the website.