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Dson Won’t Get Greener Unless Someone Cares

Alex Arnette ’22, Guest Writer

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One of the main reasons why I selected Dickinson College is its environmental focus. Dickinson took actions, from LEED certifications to solar panels to composting, that made me eager to attend a school I knew was on the right path to a sustainable future. If Dickinson expresses these values so vehemently, then why is there so little recycling and composting done by on campus? Why do some students refuse to reflect those values? 

Before I sat down to write this complaint, I wanted to make sure my grievance was well founded. To do this, I simply made an effort to look at the contents of the trash and recycling bins before I used them, and I noted each time there was an obviously out of place item. As a disclaimer this was not a comprehensive study but a casual observation of various places around campus. After a week of doing this, primarily in my dorm (Baird-McClintock), Davidson Wilson, The Quarry, the bins by the cushies, and the dumpster under my building, I concluded that in these locations, garbage is misplaced the vast majority of the time. It was common to see food waste not composted, non-recyclables like pizza boxes and Styrofoam recycled, and objects as obvious as card board thrown out. However, by far the largest problem is that once one bin was full, students simply put their unsorted trash into whichever bin was emptiest. This happens extensively on weekends in Baird-McClintock, where it seems both bins have an equal amount of recyclable and non-recyclable waste in them. 

To find the source of this problem, I first looked at misinformation. In the past, recycling was complicated because the various types of plastics had different standards for recycling. Also, the public knowledge of recycling was lacking in general. However, this cannot justify the problem. Above most if not all trash cans in large public areas, there are instructional signs that say what is and is not recyclable. Even if those signs did not exist, there are hundreds of online resources one Google search away from telling a person what to do with any given piece of waste. So, then I turned to difficulty. Maybe people do not recycle because there are barriers to recycling and composting. But again, I saw little evidence for that idea. Recycling bins are as plentiful as trash cans on campus, and the only barrier to using them is the knowledge of what can be recycled. As I stated before, that knowledge is plentiful.

The unsettling conclusion I came to was apathy. I believe there is a significant percentage of Dickinson students who do not recycle simply because they cannot be bothered to sort their trash or to look at which bin they are about to use. This is upsetting because even if this group is as small as ten percent of students, that still means more than 200 students condemn plastics to landfills every day. My only solution to apathy is convenience. Dickinson, unfortunately, must bend over backwards to ensure that even the least motivated students take the bare minimum elementary steps to prevent the build up of our landfills. I think an easy first step is to provide each dorm room with trash and recycling bins, so students do not even have to sort their waste. However, I do not know how to change the culture of recycling around Dickinson. It seems odd to me that students at the most sustainable school in the country not only refuse share my dream for a greener world, but also fail to take the smallest steps imaginable. 

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Dson Won’t Get Greener Unless Someone Cares