The University of Kansas has almost 30,000 students, in addition to faculty and university officials who are present on campus daily (The University of Kansas). At such a large university, waste efforts are crucial in maintaining a clean campus. However, in recent months, the University of Kansas has withdrawn recycling efforts from housing, major dining halls, and other prime active locations, according to the Lawrence Journal-World. On a campus populated with Starbucks, Chick-fil-a, Pizza Hut, and dozens of other dining locations which are plastic-dominated, this is an extreme measure for a system said to encourage sustainability and reduce waste. Although the University of Kansas is an insignificant big picture, this small-scale recycling reduction has a large-scale impact on the state of our world.
First of all, it is important to understand the state of the climate, and more specifically, how NOT recycling is damaging the environment. Recycling is crucial to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills and incinerators. Also, reusing materials decreases greenhouse gas emissions which contribute to climate change. Recycling helps with energy conservation, supports American manufacturing, creates industry jobs, etc. The United States Environmental Protection Agency has also found that the biggest challenges to recycling are confusion among consumers and inconsistent recycling strategies. This has been evident in the recycling system at KU; there are some places on campus with recycling bins, somewhere there aren’t, and there is an absence of direction in the sustainability efforts.
Effective recycling systems must be collaborative; there are many levels to enforcing sustainable practices. There must be easily accessible information about what can be recycled, as well as how they are recycled (EPA). At KU, there are limited informational methods that help students and faculty understand what can be recycled if anything. This has become a restriction on recycling for college students, as they do not know exactly how to behave sustainably and conveniently. Recycle Coach found that some of the main reasons why recycling is uncommon for and neglected by college students are the lack of information, inconvenience, and minimal enforcement by the university.
When KU removed recycling efforts from certain housing and dining halls, it only contributes to the typical “college student” behavior of neglecting to recycle. It is understandable that students and faculty would not go directly out of their way to find a recycling bin and understand what can be appropriately composted if the resources are not made easily accessible. According to Lawrence Journal-World, KU officials have not made any plans to reinstate the recycling program. They have stated that the recycling efforts in certain housing and dining halls are contaminated with food residue, as this is damaging to the recycling contents. So as a solution, they decided to abolish the program, instead of creating informational systems or educating students about recycling. This also happens to be in one of the more populated, frequently visited areas on campus, with an abundance of recyclable materials being wasted every day. It is also possible that the removal of certain efforts was a budget issue, however, other university-regulated organizations and programs have no budget issues, such as the athletics department having a $9.3 million surplus this year.
If the University does not reinstate certain recycling efforts and educate their students and faculty about the direct implementations of this action, KU will be responsible for contribition to the damaged climate and enforcement of the “college student” behavior which neglects recycling.