My kitchen is in crisis. The Diet Coke cans are cascading out of the trash can alongside perilously piled plastic Fresh Samantha juice cartons, while Snapple bottles bulge from every side of their bursting garbage bag. It's time to take out the recycling. But I'm not the only one putting off the task. In the past four years, Penn has been pitifully uncommitted to making recycling a campus priority. Houston Hall's gorgeously renovated basement was recently unveiled to reveal great culinary options -- and no recycling cans. Study lounges and dining halls, havens for newspaper-readers, lack newsprint recycling bins where students can deposit their Daily Pennsylvanians. And trekking to the two Hamilton Village recycling igloos with three bags of last night's beer and soda cans is not convenient for the average on- or off-campus resident living west of 38th Street. In a poll conducted this spring by the Penn Environmental Group, 72 percent of students said they threw out recyclables because there were no nearby bins. And while the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 60 to 80 percent of waste is recyclable, at Penn we recycle less than 30 percent of our waste. There should be plastic, aluminum and glass receptacles next to every trash can. Paper recycling cans should be a fixture of each classroom and University office. And increased steps should be taken in off-campus areas, where municipal waste services collects recyclables only once every two weeks. I applaud the Undergraduate Assembly for its recent proposal, endorsed by the Penn Environmental Group, that the administration upgrade its decade-old recycling program. But I wonder why it took the student body 10 years to demand an expansion of Penn's recycling efforts. The answer is that most college students don't really care. The University could attach recycling bins to our backpacks and some of us would still chuck cans in the trash because we don't consider our daily impact on the environment. We need an attitude overhaul. We must make the words "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" a motto to live by. The benefits are undisputed: Recycling glass cuts air pollution by as much as 20 percent. Manufacturing from recycled materials consumes fewer natural resources. Believe it or not, one person's actions can make a difference. Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to power a television for three hours. On the other hand, that plastic bottle you tossed while leaving the gym is going straight to a landfill, and with some states' waste sites nearing capacity, your grandchildren will be dealing with that bottle long after you're gone. Living the environmental lifestyle is easy. Here are a few simple things college students can do to cut down on the amount of garbage we send to our landfills: € Don't go through 10 plastic water bottles a week. Buy a Brita and refill bottles with filtered water. € Instead of crumpling up those quarter-size ads you accumulate on Locust Walk, use them as scrap paper. € When lunching at the food court, don't grab a fistful of napkins you're going to end up tossing. One or two is enough. € Tell the Wawa checkout lady you don't need a bag for the solitary soda you just bought. And if you do leave with a plastic shopping sac, reuse it as a garbage bag. € Prevent unnecessary waste by saving the paper towels and cleaning up with dishrags and sponges instead. € At the end of the semester, don't chuck your half-filled notebooks. Rip out and write on unused pages. € Do your dishes and save those plastic red cups for parties. And when it comes to recycling, there are numerous reasons to make the extra effort. First of all, it's the law. Philadelphia residents are legally required to recycle their glass, aluminum, steel and newsprint. Failure to do so results in a $300 fine. Plus, recycling saves money. It's more expensive to send garbage to landfills than to recycling plants. In 1996, it was estimated that the University saved over $200,000 a year by recycling. Finally, recycling is the environmental issue over which we have direct control. As everyday citizens, we feel powerless against complex crises like oil spills, the depletion of the ozone layer and rainforest destruction. But each of us can do something to reduce waste. In fact, the only solution to our society's rapidly mounting garbage problem is individuals consciously choosing to limit their waste production. It's time for Penn to make campus recycling a priority. It's time for students to make reducing and reusing their personal responsibility.Comments powered by Disqus
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