Recycling is more than just bins

Toby Forstater

Toby ForstaterAs the “RecycleMania Tournament” is in swing at Temple, the university looks to shrink its trash output and improve its environmental footprint. However, this may not be an easy task, though it seems recycling should be second nature to people of our generation.

There is a notable lack of recycling compared to trashcans on Main Campus. In the TECH Center, the 10 or so recycling cans go greatly overlooked because of the more than 40 trash bins. The library is chock-full of trash deposits, too.

Many people won’t recycle if trashcans are closer by. This is obvious around Main Campus, apparent to the environmentally-conscious observer due to the easily recyclable plastics and paper pileup in the wrong receptacle.

Americans threw away 250 million tons of trash in 2011, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Studies show anywhere from 60-80 percent of trash in landfills can be recycled or composted. Either there is a lack of participation or a lack of proper receptacles.

Temple might have both problems.

However, both the Office of Sustainability and Students for Environmental Action helped station tons of blue and white recycling containers in various campus buildings.

Also, the organizations drove Temple to use “single-stream recycling,” where plastics labeled 1-7, paper and cardboard all go to the same facility. No longer do we need to separate paper and plastic into different cans.

Similarly, the Office of Sustainability and Students for Environmental Action have implemented composting in the Johnson & Hardwick dining hall and the Liacouras Center.

Soon, both the Student Center and Morgan Hall will have composting too, despite upsetting pushbacks from Sodexo and the administration.

“Composting and recycling [are] extremely important,” senior School of Media and Communication student Breland Moore said via email. “You don’t need to be a huge sustainability buff to throw your cans and bottles into the proper receptacle, and it’s one of the first steps people typically take to live greener lives. It’s just about making smart purchasing choices and opting for greener products than the ones that they might currently be using.”

Moore is part of the green team at the Office of Sustainability, helping to spur on a little extra recycling through friendly competition.

“Now that [Temple] takes plastics 1-7, there’s no better time to compete [in RecycleMania],” she added.

Every year, colleges across the nation and Canada compete to recycle and reduce waste in the RecycleMania Tournament. Temple is up against some stiff competition this year, such as recent winner Rutgers and the University of Pennsylvania, which has edged Temple out in previous years. However, Moore said the Office of Sustainability primarily looks to surpass Temple’s own past records.

Each week, weights of recycling, trash and compost are tallied and reported. Schools see who can cut trash and recycle the most. To assess reductions, the team at the nonprofit RecycleMania Inc. compares school averages before and during the tournament. RecycleMania even started estimating greenhouse gas reductions, since trash has a huge carbon footprint.

More than half a billion pounds of trash were recycled and composted, reducing almost a million metric tons of carbon dioxide emission since the start of the competition in 2011.

Just one metric ton of carbon dioxide is equivalent to burning 103 gallons of gasoline, according to Southwest Climate Change. Imagine, comparatively, more than 7 million cars taken off the road for a week or two.

The tournament should encourage students and faculty to reduce, reuse and recycle, which is greatly needed.

This year, Temple kicked off RecycleMania at the men’s basketball game against Rutgers on Jan. 29. This was the first “zero-waste” event at the Liacouras Center. There were compostable paper plates and compostable plastic cups. Additionally, there were only two receptacles, recycling and compost, no trash.

It was a promising start – now it’s up to the Temple community to continue the energy.

“I thought it was really cool that we held a zero-waste game,” senior environmental science major Jesse Delaney said, after volunteering to help promote recycling at the event. “I thought it was really cool that they made a lot of the materials compostable rather than just trash. Recycling is essential to sustainability. I think all games should be zero-waste.”

Toby Forstater can be reached at

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