-Revee Needham ‘18
Once again Colgate University is participating in a competition with other colleges and universities to decrease landfill waste and increase recycling rates. We are competing against Hamilton College in Clinton to see who can improve the most from February 5th to March 9th. Recycling rates are calculated by dividing the recycled weight by total weight of recycled plus landfill waste. For the past two weeks, the staff at Colgate were measuring the amount of recycling and landfill waste we generated in order to have a baseline to compare to.
Why is this competition and recycling so important? Landfills across the country release 143 million tons of greenhouse gases (Source). Those greenhouse gases contribute to the many effects of climate change. With the staggering amount of trash we are producing, we are running out of land and sending our garbage overseas, with some of it ending up in the ocean (Source). Furthermore, landfills often pose a health risk to workers and the surrounding community, which historically has been poorer people of color who have less political capital to fight the siting (Source).
While recycling may seem simple and easy to grasp, the recycling infrastructure varies greatly county-to-county and state-to-state. With Colgate drawing in students from 45+ states and over 100 countries, many students arrive with vastly different experiences and knowledge. Thus, it’s incredibly important to learn about what we have here at Colgate upon arrival.
Check out this guide for the recycling system in Madison County, NY. The main thing to remember is that we have two-stream recycling: one bin for paper and one bin for plastics/glass/cans. Remember to rinse your recyclable bottles or cans of any food residue first, for health and safety reasons for the workers who sort the recycling. To reduce your own waste, you may first want to look at what’s on your plate. Americans throw away 30% of all food and 50% of all produce (Source). Sorting through or even simply keeping a tally of what you throw away can help you to understand what sorts of waste you are producing, and can then reduce.
You can help make Recyclemania the best one yet! The Sustainability Office is hosting workshops about recycling for interested students, faculty, or staff and their respective organization, office, or club. Fill out this form to get started.