“Seventy-five percent of our waste is recyclable.” Students woke up Monday morning to this and other phrases chalked around the Ursinus campus as part of an educational program from the Office of Sustainability called Mt. Trashmore.
In partnership with Housekeeping, the Office of Sustainability set up a display of all the trash and recycling generated at Ursinus College in a single weekend, and piled it next to the iconic Love statue. Posters and sidewalk chalk around campus directed people to the display and shared statistics about waste in America.
Emma Danz 2014, the UCGreen Fellow Recycling Coordinator, came up with the idea as part of Recyclemania. Her rationale? Waste disappears for us so quickly that we never fully interact with or come to terms with the amount of waste that we create. If people could see not only how much we send to a landfill on a given day, but also how much of that material is actually recyclable, then more people would take the time to recycle. Many recyclable items end up in our landfills or incinerators, putting unnecessary stress on the earth and its inhabitants in the form of raw material extraction. The EPA estimates that 30 percent of paper products, 45 percent of aluminum cans, and almost 70 percent of plastic water bottles are thrown away each year.
Ursinus has a robust recycling program and a newly expanded composting program. On average, Ursinus recycles 12,000 lbs. of co-mingled recycling, and composts 1,200 lbs. of food related waste each week. Additionally, we are one of 26 schools recognized by the EPA for our participation in the Food Recovery Challenge. However, as Mt. Trashmore shows, we can do more to keep recyclable items from going to landfill. A close look at the contents of the trash on Monday revealed plastic water bottles, food waste, and various forms of cardboard and other paper products. Despite our efforts and positive showings during Recyclemania, as a campus, we send over 20,000 lbs. of waste to the landfill each week. The campus recycling rate hovers right around the national average of 34 percent.