At recycling event, students reconsider waste habits

Hillary Huber

Contributing Writer

America Recycles, a nationally recognized annual event dedicated to promoting recycling efforts, was held at VCU on Monday.

The event was kicked off with a “dumpster dive” that showed how many recyclable items end up in trash cans, regardless of the close proximity of recycling bins. Bottles, cans and paper were among the majority of recyclable items found in the dive, all of which can be recycled in the designated bins, usually right next to trash cans.

“At VCU, we recycle about 35 percent of our waste stream right now, and we’re always looking to increase that,” Steven Heinitz, VCU’s recycling coordinator said. “It’s about education, awareness, getting people involved, and participation – which is key.”

In order to educate students, particularly freshman, on exactly what VCU’s role is in going green, students and faculty in the Office of Sustainability traveled around campus with demonstrations like the dumpster dive, as well as information tables and movie showings.

Elle Chang, a former VCU student who now works for office of sustainability and is a former member of the Student Organization for Green Unity, said America Recycles is a great event that shows just how much students are interested in furthering green efforts at the university.

“We took a survey that showed that 80 percent of students were interested in paying a “green fee” to go towards sustainable projects,” Chang said. “I think students are really interested in (green initiatives).”

Chang said not only does she hope the green fee becomes included in tuition, she said she hopes that sustainability courses will be introduced into curriculum.

Jenny You, a graduate student in the Masters of Environmental Studies program and campus sustainability intern, said the goal of bringing America Recycles to VCU, was not only to promote recycling, but to bring awareness to students about the green opportunities on campus.

You said it was important for students to know how they can help the university achieve their goal of becoming carbon-neutral by 2050 and what types of things they can do to make their lives more eco-friendly.

Heinitz also stressed the simplicity of recycling, especially on campus.

“We all have good and bad habits. Recycling is one of those things that’s easy to do,” Heinitz said. “We can all help by recycling, but at VCU, we’re trying to take it a step further, not just recycling paper, plastic bottles and aluminum, but we’re looking at composting food waste and leaves from the trees. We’re trying to broaden the horizons with recycling, not just the typical things you think of every day. We’re trying to think outside the box.”

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