Recycling woes befall GW

Ridiculous. In my two and a half semesters here, that word has come to represent everything at this school, from campus lockdowns to Subway saying we’re out of bread, after they ask me what kind of sandwich I want. The ridiculousness never ends.

Last semester, I came to find out that GW does about a good a job at recycling as they do _________ (please fill in your own personal GW deficiency here). In other words, GW does not recycle. Some things just aren’t profitable to recycle, as Walter Gray, director of Facilities Management, which handles GW recycling, told us last year. The ridiculousness stems from the fact that controversy about recycling has not been an issue for what seems like the majority of my life. The last I remembered any discussion over recycling was when my mom took my sister’s old diaper pail and marked it plastics. That was it. No leeway on the subject. Newspapers bundled with twine, put out on the curb Monday morning. I even recall for a short period ShopRite offering discounts if customers saved their paper bags and brought them back when they went food shopping again the next week.

That was in my elementary school days, years before I stopped finding the word fart hilarious and years before I had ever heard the word JAP. Now here at GW (14th grade), it seems like there’s been a blackout of common sense. Sure, look around the buildings and the rooms, and you’ll see large bins marked for recycling, or you’ll see the fancy white-hooded cans on the exteriors of buildings to overemphasize their presence. I wonder if the recycling bins are made out of recycled plastic and metal?

Well, like President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg on a treadmill, it’s all for show. Take a look inside these recycling receptacles one day – those outside the Academic Center or near the Quad will do fine. See those dark, opaque bags? If you know anything about trash collection at all, you’ll be able to say that recycling bins are supposed to have clear bags to determine which ones are filled with recyclable materials and which are contaminated with trash.

You may notice that the residence hall bags and some others are clear, and I would agree. If you get a chance one day, follow the maintenance crews around your hall – you can say you’re looking for your roommate whom you haven’t seen since the last bar crawl, or lost contact lens, GWorld, dog, cat, whatever – and watch them send those recycled materials down the trash chute. Yep, that’s the same chute you threw the Rice-a-Roni you tried to cook in your hot-pot down the other night. It’s the same chute you toss empty bottles of Captain Morgan’s down to avoid being caught, and no, unless you live in New Hall, there’s no fancy pants sorting system to make you feel comfortable that the Captain is only polluting your body and not the Earth, too.

It’s important not just to point the blame at the administration; general apathy among the student body isn’t exactly helping. If you think newspaper goes in the recycling bin with cans and bottles, you need to seriously rethink your daily alcohol intake. Similarly, plastic forks, cups and bags are not considered plastic containers, but at least you’re trying. Pizza boxes are not mixed paper. Also, for the love of George, if there’s a recycling bin right next to a trash can, take the second to differentiate the two and put your trash in the right one. We don’t want to give the University a chance to blame the students for something born of stubborn administrational stupidity.

Now, we’re not asking for much. It’s not like we’re pleading for classrooms to fit every student or tuition payments that don’t involve your first-born child and the black market. Hell, we’re not even asking GW to switch to a non-sweatshop company for its clothing – although, that would be nice. We’re just asking for someone to come and take the recycled materials to a better place than the dumpster. American University does it; aren’t we better than them? Georgetown University does it; aren’t they our idols? But at GW, all we have is our new School Media and Public Affairs building!

-The writer is a member of GW Free The Planet!

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