Recycling and reusing efforts can be seen all around the world. Americans are fairly behind on this curve. In speaking with folks from other countries, many do not have the choice to recycle versus not – recycling is mandatory. We as Americans and university students must continue to try to educate ourselves by increasing our knowledge regarding recycling in order to try and preserve our resources for future generations. For example, I was unaware that many items that once contained food products (pizza boxes for example) can be recycled, regardless of whether they are completely clean and devoid of food particles. In a recent random sampling of some of our residence hall waste, we found that nearly 80-90% of what was thrown in the trash headed for the landfill could have been recycled. What does this mean to you? It means we could do a much better job. Purdue and the residence halls recently participated in Recyclemania 2012, and recycling bins can be found all over campus. Let’s not rely on a competition to highlight our efforts to step up our recycling initiatives. We need to change our culture to adopt recycling as a way of life. The University’s recycling program defines trash as:
- Food waste and food containers with significant residue.
- Snack wrappers
- Restroom paper (hand towels and toilet paper)
On a slightly smaller scale, Purdue University Food Services does whatever they can to make a difference. What happens to your unfinished mac n’ cheese or the rest of your wet burrito when you put it on the elusive tray return? An interesting and environmentally positive process begins! The food waste is ground up and sent to the wastewater treatment center in West Lafayette. There, the food waste is put into large containers that house a certain form of bacteria that eats the waste. This bacterium then produces a methane gas that is used to provide power to the treatment plant. This process that your un-wanted food goes through helps keep almost all waste from the Purdue Dining Courts out of the landfills and turns it into reusable materials. How can we do better here? Take only what you care to eat, which creates less waste, less need for washing, detergents, electricity and man hours.
The dining courts also recycle many products: cardboard, cans, glass, aluminum, etc. The uneaten food that is no longer up to Purdue’s health standards (but is still healthy and edible) is sent to a local food bank to be served to those who are in need of a hot meal. The dining courts produce very little waste. What waste we do create, is a very small percentage considering the amount of products and food prepared to feed all of us!
I don’t know about you but all the efforts the dining courts go through make me feel better about where I am eating! What is an interesting way that you choose to recycle? Let us know here or on our Twitter @reslifeatpurdue.