University recycling works in ways many students don’t see

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    More than half of students who completed an email survey for recycling indicated they did not think TCU has an effective recycling program, according to a recent survey conducted by students at the university.

    The survey was conducted by a group of nine students in Assistant Professor Wendy Macias' Strategic Communication Campaigns class.

    Hillary Hall, a senior advertising/public relations major, said Macias assigned the class to come up with a campaign project to raise students' awareness of recycling on campus.

    The purpose of the survey was to gauge students' understanding of recycling, Hall said, so the group could make recommendations to improve knowledge of TCU's recycling program.

    Macias said she chose to focus the student projects on recycling this semester because recycling is important to her. This was her first year at TCU, and she had a hard time understanding the recycling program at the university and what it entailed, she said.

    "A lot of it seemed to be miscommunication or people not understanding," Macias said. "That's when it really clicked that it would make a great student project for strategic communication because that's what we do — the communication aspect of it."

    Hall and her group members generated the survey through a survey website called Qualtrics, she said.

    Senior strategic communication major and group member Amanda Shipman said the group was able to send the survey out to a random sampling of 2,000 students via email. They received 341 responses.

    Fifty-four percent of students surveyed did not consider TCU to have an effective recycling program. And 73 percent did not think that recycling was convenient on campus.

    There were several open-ended questions on the survey where students could enter their own responses. One question asked for suggestions to improve TCU's recycling program, and more than half of the responses recommended implementing some sort of recycle bins around campus.

    Most students who took the survey said they would recycle more if it was more convenient to do so, according to the survey. But as it is, 73 percent did not know where any recycle bins were located on campus.

    Shipman said overall, the responses they got called for more recycle bins near trash cans to make recycling more convenient. People also wanted to know more about how TCU recycles, she said.

    "Nobody knows what the program is, and nobody realizes that TCU is actually doing things to make the campus greener," Shipman said.

    Trevor Yarbrough, a senior geography major, said he thought there were not many places on campus to recycle.

    "I think that if you had recycle bins along with the trash cans, it would get students thinking more about recycling," Yarbrough said. "We know that TCU is trying to be a sustainable campus, but at the same time, we can't really see that as far as recycling our waste goes."

    TCU Recycling

    Keith Whitworth, an instructor of sociology, said TCU students are not normally aware the university recycles because it is done behind the scenes.

    "With the single stream system, the average TCU student or staff or faculty doesn't see a recycle bin," Whitworth said. "It's just a regular trash can. It's not labeled recycling."

    TCU recycles in two ways, according to the university's sustainability website. First, in all administrative and academic buildings, the university employs a single stream recycling system. This means that all trash is placed in the regular trash cans and is later sorted at the Waste Management recycling center in Arlington, according to the website. Harold Leeman, associate director of major projects and facilities planning for the Physical Plant, said the main problem with recycling on campus was contamination.

    If soda bottles and leftover food containers get tossed into the trash can, then that trash is no longer able to be recycled because it has been contaminated, Metra Collins, service assistant supervisor for the Physical Plant's Facility Services Department, said. Once the trash has been contaminated by food or drink, Collins said, it is taken to an on-campus trash compactor to be disposed.

    The other recycling method, which is currently in use by residence halls, is a blue bag recycling program in conjunction with Evergreen Recycling Inc. Blue bags are placed in trash rooms so students can recycle plastic and paper products, according to the TCU sustainability website. The housekeeping staff comes by once a week and takes the blue bags out to the curb to be picked up by Evergreen.

    The survey indicated students want to recycle, but were not sure about how to do so. Yarbrough said he thought the addition of easily recognizable recycle bins was just what TCU needed.

    "It would be a good reminder to see recycling bins and kind of promote recycling and sustainability more because people would be more aware of what's going on, and they would think about recycling instead of just throwing something away," Yarbrough said.

    Side Bar

    by Staff Reporter Brooke Crum

    Recycle bins have been added to the lobbies of Milton Daniel and Moncrief Halls and will be placed in all residence halls by next year, Director of Housing & Residence Life Craig Allen said.

    Housing & Residence Life purchased the recycle bins, made out of recycled milk jugs, last semester, Allen said.

    The bins were added to the lobbies to help improve recycling efforts in the halls by making them more visible to students, Allen said. The bins each cost about $1,000 apiece, but Allen said he still hoped to have them in the lobby of each residence hall next year because they have been so popular with students.

    In addition to the newly purchased bins, the university also received a dozen free recycle bins from PepsiCo, Allen said. PepsiCo donated them after TCU was approved to receive the Greenopolis Dream Machines. The PepsiCo bins will be placed in the trash rooms of the residence halls.