Staff Editorial: Rethinking recycling

GW recycled only seven percent of its garbage from July through September. American University recycled 50 percent during the same time, and has done so for almost two years. The statistics speak for themselves: GW must institute measures to improve its recycling program.

Recycling starts at the user level. Bins marked for aluminum cans or paper cannot have trash – like Styrofoam or left-over food – stuffed in them. Students simply need to exert a little effort to do their part to conserve landfill space and help reduce the detrimental impact of landfills on the environment. Simply putting the right type of garbage in the correct container is the obvious place to start.

But American is not outpacing GW in recycling by such a wide margin because its students are better at separating trash than their GW peers. Instead, American has a contract with Consolidated Waste Industries, a waste management company that sorts recyclable material from bags of trash after they are collected. This system does not rely on students to separate their trash, allowing responsible recycling despite students’ carelessness. This system adds an extra layer of sorting that helps improve the aggregate numbers of recycled materials. GW officials said they are considering contracting with CWI. GW should implement this or a similar system whether with CWI or another company.

GW facilities management officials set a goal of recycling 20 percent of GW’s waste, and they say CWI could help the University reach or even surpass its goal. While this benchmark is three times the level GW currently recycles, it is still too low. When American made the switch to CWI, its recycling percentage jumped from a steady 15 percent to 50 percent and has held steady. If CWI offers a competitive price, GW should put the company to work recycling the University’s garbage and achieve a goal of 50 percent or more recycled content.

Environmental problems are not going away, and recycling is a simple and effective way to minimize the University’s harmful impact on the environment. Every measure – from students and staff members using the recycling bins around campus and in residence halls to the University arranging for a company to sort trash after collection – must be implemented to improve the University’s recycling program. Anything less is irresponsible.

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