Recycling bins recently made their reappearance around Washington College residence halls. At the beginning of this year, the college could not find a student to run this program. However, Allison Heishman recently volunteered to get the program up and running again.
To understand recycling at WC, a look back at the history of the program is helpful. As Physical Plant Director Reid Raudenbush said, "It's really evolved, more than been set up."
"The college, about ten years ago ... began recycling with a local company called Infinity Recycling," Raudenbush said, elaborating on the history of the recycling program. He also noted that at that time, Infinity Recycling paid the school for their recyclables.
"About six years ago ... things started to change." Raudenbush recalled. "The market for recyclables started to dry up. Infinity reduced their number of pick-ups and stopped going into the residence halls."
Raudenbush explained that the situation continued to deteriorate until the college reached its current understanding with Infinity.
"They pick up the paper from the administration and faculty buildings," Raudenbush noted, adding, "We now have to pay them."
Fortunately, a new student-based program was developed for the dorms. "Without student involvement, we wouldn't have a recycling program in the residence halls," said Grounds Supervisor Whaland Clark.
However the student program still depended upon the county to do their pick-ups. Raudenbush said, "The county agrees to treat the college in the same way the county treats and picks up from private citizens," also noting that "Whaland [Clark] got the county to give us the bins."
Raudenbush explained that the county's services were not affected by the slump in the recyclables market, "Since they're not on a profit or loss basis, they've continued to come through every week."
Raudenbush summed up the history of recycling at WC by saying, "It's all economics . . . it all has to do with the value of recyclables." He also speculated that, "if the recyclables were still profitable, you'd have Infinity and half a dozen other companies in here."
However, the new situation has certain advantages over the old. Raudenbush explained that for "Infinity, you had to separate everything for them," which is not true of the county service, which does the separating itself.
"This curbside [service] is much better," Raudenbush said, concluding, "It's all worked out pretty well for the last three or four years."
Many students, particularly in the Student Environmental Alliance, feel the school could be doing more. Said Senior Melissa Farmer, "Allison [Heishman], I think, will do a good job but the school itself needs to do more." She pointed out that "all we have now is general recycling like bottle recycling.
"We want to get paper recycling on campus," Farmer said, adding that recycling "should be something the college does itself and every building is involved."
Clark responded by saying that "we've tried to put forth an effort to do paper recycling. Unfortunately, we can't meet some of [the county's] requirements." Since the county picks up the recyclables from the student program, this prevents its extension into paper.
Student response to the current recycling program has been very positive. Freshman Nicole Chalise said, "I think it's necessary for the college because we have so many bottles and so many cans; it would be ridiculous not to recycle." Chalise added, "It's an easy and simple way to help the environment."
Sophomore Melissa Maenner said of the recycling bins, 'They're for a great cause. We should have had them the first week of school."
An anonymous sophomore saw symbolism in the coloring of the bins. "I like the color," she said. "They're a nice pretty green which represents, you know, the ecosystem which we're trying to save."
Do students mind having to carry out the recycling for their halls? Freshman Chris Herrmann said, "I don't care. I did it all the time at home."
In fact, some students are willing to go the extra mile. As Junior Boothe Crumbley explained, "I have my own bin. I love recycling that much."
A new year has begun for the recycling program at WC. This program has a long history, and has had ups and downs. That said, it looks like it will continue into the future with the strong student support it receives.