By Clara Fang
You have probably seen the RecycALL bins in the hallways. You may already know that Towson does single-stream recycling, which means that all papers, plastic containers with the numbers 1 through 7 inscribed on the bottom, and metal cans be placed in the same bin. So we’re doing a great job of recycling, right?
Consider these statistics:
- Last year, Towson generated 4,650 tons of waste, the equivalent of about 1,860 pickup trucks!
- Approximately 18 percent of that was recycled, or about 335 pickup trucks.
- 3,777 tons were discarded to the landfill, the equivalent of 540 adult elephants.
These statistics are not as significant as they may seem. From February 3 – March 30, Towson tracked and reported its recycling and trash generation as part of the Recyclemania competition, a national competition between colleges and universities to encourage recycling.
Towson has been an active participant in Recyclemania since 2009, This year a prize of up to $500 is offered to the Residence Hall that recycles the most. After eight weeks of the competition, Towson placed 217th out of 269 schools, behind Frostburg State University; University of Maryland, College Park; University of Maryland Baltimore County; and Harford Community College. The following chart shows Towson’s recycling rate (18 percent) compared to those of other institutions in Maryland and the national average (30.8 percent).
The results of the Recyclemania competition will be announced on April 12 on the Recyclemania website and through a national press release. Towson will not even be in the first half of those listed.
But the knowledge from Recyclemania is already generating momentum on campus for change. Signs promoting recycling are being created, recycling bins are being ordered and the Trash-to-Treasure event, scheduled for Memorial Day weekend, involves donating and selling tons of items left by students that would otherwise end up in the trash. But these activities will not make a dent without the vigilance of the students, faculty and staff who decide what does and doesn’t get recycled at Towson every day.
However, the university has made major strides toward sustainability in recent years. In addition to single-stream recycling, Towson has instituted electronic recycling in the Residence Halls, as well as battery, light bulb and ink cartridge recycling. All the pre-consumer food waste from dining halls is composted. In addition, Towson recycles a large portion of construction waste, including concrete, asphalt, glass, wood, furniture and carpeting. When the Office of Sustainability invited the community to drop-off electronics for recycling on March 29, more than 80 people showed up and unloaded 2.9 tons of electronics.
Recycling is not just something nice to do; it conserves natural resources, it saves wildlife and it improves human health. But in addition to recycling, we need to think about the impact of our consumption and reduce the amount of materials that we purchase.
When we drink water out of a container, we save hundreds of plastic water bottles from ever being manufactured (and then recycled). When we take a reusable bag to the grocery store, we prevent plastic bags from trashing the environment and prevent the deaths of turtles and birds. We can buy materials with less packaging, begin composting at home, and reuse what we have. Not only is it good for the environment, it saves money, too.
Recycling is everyone’s responsibility. Can we count on you to help?