Is Whitworth Doing Enough to Recycle?

By Veronica Scafidi, 1/25/17

Recycling in Warren Hall.

Recycling on campus help contribute to saving the environment, but students have ideas about programs that can be put in place.

Americans generate about 254 million tons of waste a year and 34.3 percent of it is recycled the Environmental Protection Agency in 2013. The amount of recycling isn’t as low as it once was (the Grassroots Recycling Network says 28 percent in 2000), but there is still a large amount of trash in the ocean and in landfills.

“It is a little scary,” says freshman Addie Stouder, a Portland, Ore. native and avid recycler. She says at the rate the planet is going, “recycling is crucial.”

An article by National Geographic says recycling reduces emissions from incinerators and landfills. It takes less energy to make items, like aluminum cans, from recycled materials than from materials that are untouched. It also eliminates that waste that was going into the landfill.

Recycling programs in colleges

Pacific Lutheran University, a small, private, Christian school similar to Whitworth, not only has a single- stream recycling system, but also collects hazardous items like batteries, styrofoam, and prescription drugs. In addition to this, PLU students have the option of having a compost bin provided by the dining hall for their dorm room needs.

Much like PLU, Whitworth has committed to working toward a carbon-neutral campus. Paper usage is discouraged. Information that would usually use paper (like pay stubs) is now electronic. Along with this, Whitworth has also turned to a single-stream recycling system to be able to collect more recycling. To limit trash in the dining hall, compost bins are present and highly encouraged by Sodexo.

Recycling at Whitworth

Stouder says she doesn’t have much to recycle, but she feels there should be more opportunities to. “I have tons of paper that is honestly just sitting around,” she says.

But there isn’t a place in her dorm, Baldwin-Jenkins, to recycle paper. “Really, the recycling downstairs is for big stuff, like cardboard boxes, but there isn’t a blue bin,” she says.

Recycling in the dorm is different for Ballard freshman, Jenna Davis. Ballard says she has recycling bins on every floor and a designated location outside for larger cardboard boxes. She says that this has satisfied her needs to recycle.

Stouder says she doesn’t recollect seeing many blue bins around campus outside of the dorms.

Whitworth freshman Daniella Echeagaray says that she knows there are two recycling bins in the HUB, but isn’t sure what they are for.

But Echeagaray says she has noticed recycling areas in Robinson Science Building. There, labeling is explicit: trash here, paper there, and bottles over there.

Bottle recycling inside of Robinson Science Building.

Composting on campus

Whitworth has a compost system in the dining hall. Kris Mitchell, a concerned elementary school parent from Happy Valley, Ore., thinks it is important and beneficial to compost instead of throwing food away.

Mitchell said she saw a need for a more eco-friendly environment and helped start a composting and recycling project in an Oregon elementary and middle school.

Food waste program at Happy Valley Elementary. Photo taken by Kris Mitchell.

She says her goal was to help the kids learn about recycling, gain awareness of food waste, cut down on it and learn to take responsibility for their trash.

By encouraging the students to take food home that they could eat later, composting food that was unwanted, and emptying and recycling bottles, “the amount of garbage every week decreased dramatically!” she says.

Echeagaray says even though Whitworth currently has a composting system in Sodexo, there could be more. She says it is unclear in the dining hall which bins are for compost and which are for garbage. With the amount of food wasted, it is important to compost she says.

She also says that composting could be incorporated into the dorms. “It would be awesome,” she says because getting rid of unwanted food or scraps wouldn’t be as wasteful. Right now, it just goes in the trash.