RECYCLING: TRYING TO LEAVE IT BETTER THAN WE FOUND IT

LAUREN WISDOM, GUEST WRITER

“We can see that there’s a giant pile of garbage in the ocean from us, but we’re choosing to be lazy and wasteful,” Lizzi Barrett, a music education and secondary English education double-major, said. “If we can reuse things and we can recycle things, then why don’t we?”

Barrett works for the Sustainability department at Wartburg, and she strongly believes that recycling is worthwhile, but does not understand why more people do not participate. One thought is that the process needs to be simpler to entice more people to participate in recycling.

“I think there’s like 10% of people who are always going to recycle no matter what and then you have the people who are strongly advocating for it like me and then you have another 10% of people who are never going to recycle because they are strongly opposed to it for some reason,” Barrett said. “I think everybody else falls into the middle of it because if it’s convenient for them or it’s easier for them to recycle, then they will recycle. But if they have to go out of their way to recycle, then they will not do it.”

A November 2014 online survey of over 2,000 United States adults by Harris Poll from the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries found that “younger American adults ages 18-34 are significantly less likely to say they always recycle than older generations,” according to recyclingtoday.com.

“You have to be a leader, explain why [recycling] is important and you have to make it easy,” Dr. David McCullough, a Wartburg College professor of environmental science, said. “There are ways of pushing people to do the right thing and I think it just encourages them more. Remove the barriers, nudge them toward the right alternatives, and that’s the way you can change society rather than yelling at them and beating them with the stick.”

The Clean Water Act was enacted in 1948, but was not finalized until 1972. This act “establishes the basic structure for regulating discharges of pollutants into the waters of the United States and regulating quality standards for surface waters,” according to epa.gov.

Meanwhile, the Clean Air Act of 1970 “is the comprehensive federal law that regulates air emissions from stationary and mobile sources” while it also authorizes EPA to establish National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) to protect public health and public welfare and to regulate emissions of hazardous air pollutants,” according to epa.gov.

“I think on paper, the government has done some wonderful jobs in the past of putting some really nice policies together. Now, we just have to figure out ways to effectively implement them and not shut down things and loophole our way around [the laws],” McCullough said.

College students have a tendency to throw trash away, but they throw the items into the wrong bins. According to the McGill Tribune, which is an independent campus newspaper out of Montreal, Quebec, Canada, “by holding on to recyclables in bags and disposing of them properly later, rather than tossing recyclable materials into nearby trash cans, members of the McGill community can keep the growing landfill to a minimum.”

It’s important to be mindful of where to throw things away, whether that be in a trash can, recycle bin or even a bin strictly for glass materials. Recycling is not the only thing people do for sustainability.

Common practices that people adapt to every day are going plastic free, taking shorter showers or turning off the water while brushing their teeth to preserve water, boycotting products that endanger wildlife as seen in many makeup brands, using fluorescent light bulbs at home, or people may choose to ride a bike or walk places instead of using their cars, according to biologicaldiversity.org.

Changing the mindset of environmental violators is a challenge that goes beyond the understanding of recycling. There is the consideration of conserving fossil fuel while also showing and encouraging leadership to improving the environment. “It’s not my world, it’s my world to pass on,” McCullough said. “I’m just borrowing it for a while. It’s that philosophy of borrowing the environment rather than using the environment.”

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