Boxes, bottles, and cans- oh my

Kaitlyn Patterson

How small steps can create a better future for our Earth

You’ve been hearing “reduce, reuse, recycle” since elementary school, but have you been staying true to these three simple tasks? The three R’s are some the easiest actions one can do to help conserve our planet’s natural resources and beauty.

However, I often find that on Saint Joseph’s University’s campus, many students either improperly dispose of recyclable items, or fail to dispose of them at all. I feel as if I’m always yelling at one of my friends as they walk towards a garbage can throw away a plastic bottle. Where there’s a trash can, there’s usually a corresponding recycling bin right next to it, and if not, is it so hard to hold on to it until you can find its proper place for disposal?

Throughout my life I’ve seen a lack of concern about the destination of our waste, and I’ve always wondered, why? Is it that people don’t pay attention, or are they simply uninformed? Or is it that we simply don’t care where our trash ends up as long as we don’t have it pile up in our homes?

Unless you live under a rock, or are simply unobservant as you roam the halls of every building on campus, you will notice colored bins that are labeled with what to put in them, from dried out markers and pens, to batteries, and even ink cartridges. These are all in addition to the full size recycling bins for all your paper, plastic, and aluminum products. These bins are graciously provided and maintained by the Green Fund here on campus, which I am proud member of. Last week, as we collected the materials from these bins, we found trash, half-finished drinks, and old food in them. We can all become conscious of simple actions, like putting the right materials into the designated bins. This will improve not only the sustainability and cleanliness of the St. Joe’s campus, but the earth itself.

Yes, there’s a lot going on in the world right now, and one may not see simple things like recycling as a priority, but unless you have the magical formula that will reverse global warming, every tiny contribution counts. The population continues to grow year after year, which means less land and more production—ultimately putting more plastic containers and packaging out into stores that end up in garbage cans and landfills. The more reusable and recyclable items society wastes, the more resources are taken from the earth and energy is wasted retrieving them.

So, no, the one or two bottles you accidentally put in the garbage won’t kill the planet. But if every individual in the world makes the same mistake, which they often do, the effects can be drastic. What many people may not know, is that what we waste and how we dispose of it affects many aspects in the functioning of society. According to Recycling Across America (RAA), an environmental nonprofit, in addition to improving the appearance and quality of the environment, recycling contributes to the economy, creates jobs, and fosters sustainable manufacturing methods. It costs significantly more to incinerate or put waste in a landfill than it does to recycle it. If you burn plastic on your own, you put yourself more at risk with the harmful toxins released into the air. Recycling presents copious amounts of benefits and opportunities to better our society and the environment we inhabit, and if I tried to list them all we would be here forever. The nonprofit’s website for RAA writes: “When U.S. recycling levels reach 75% it will be the environmental and CO2 equivalent of removing 55 million cars from U.S. roads each year.”

It is not a question of why should we recycle; it is how can we as a campus and as contributing members of society can learn to properly dispose of waste, and educate others about the benefits and necessity of recycling.

Be conscious of your waste, my friends, and together we can make the world a greener place.

About the author

Kaitlyn Patterson

Kaitlyn Patterson

Kaitlyn Patterson, '20, Creative Director

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