Awareness is key to improving TCU’s recycling program

A lack of awareness about TCU’s recycling program is hurting its chances at success, Instructor of Sociology Keith Whitworth said.

Whitworth said he believed the current generation of students is not properly socialized to environmental awareness, and cited that as a major problem behind the low success of recycling on campus.

Though TCU received a B- average for 2011 on The College Sustainability Report Card, the university received a C in the recycling section of the report card.

According to the The College Sustainability Report Card’s website, the success of the university’s recycling program played a role in the low grade, putting TCU below the average university recycling grade of B+.

“Awareness is extremely important on campus because the recycling program is not visible,”

Whitworth said. “It is a single stream system; therefore, we don’t have the receptacles that identify as a recycling bin for glass, plastic, paper and trash. That is what many students are looking for when they think of a recycling program, [but] we don’t have that here.”

TCU uses a single stream method for trash, he said. Waste Management picks up trash from all academic and administration buildings and sends it to the recycling sorting station in Arlington, where trash is dumped and the recyclables are sorted out by hand and by various other means.

However, Whitworth said recyclables have often been mixed with food waste or soaked in liquids which made them unfit for recycling.

On campus, the residence halls were the only buildings that  used the blue recycling bins donated by PepsiCo, he said. Junior writing major Emily Capelli said TCU had a great sustainability record but was lacking in student awareness about recycling. “I think the recycling programs themselves are really good,” she said. Whitworth was one of the main supporters of the three Greenopolis

Dream Machines that PepsiCo donated to TCU as a pilot program.

The Dream Machines use a card-swipe system to give students redeemable points when they put recyclables into the machine. The machines were implemented in Colby Hall, Sherley Hall, the GrandMarc and the University Recreation Center  at the end of April. However, the statistics of how often the machines are used have not yet become available.

“I saw an article online about the dream machines,” senior biology major Maryam Arastu said. “And I later found out through Facebook that there was one in the GrandMarc. Awareness is a big part of recycling, and I only remember TCU’s environmental policy in classes when being told to save paper.”

A Climate Curriculum Committee also formed, and is working to integrate environmental issues into the TCU curriculum for all students.

“We presented our proposals to Dr. Donovan, so we’re hoping that eventually we will see some changes in the curriculum,” Whitworth said. “We looked at all kinds of ways of doing that. We just need to pull all that together so that students–regardless of their major or minor–get some kind of introduction to sustainability.”

Right now, dedicated faculty can educate students about recycling and sustainability and hope their lessons make a lasting impression on their students, Whitworth said.