Happy almost end of February! This month has been filled with environmental events, like the Blueprints Convention and the Spring 2022 Waste Audit. These events stress the importance of waste and recycling, and how both of these services can impact entire cities let alone college campuses. As this month draws to an end, let’s talk about the importance of managing your own personal waste -- and what is considered as waste vs. what can be recycled.
First, let’s start with an overview of waste and recycling at Duke. The Duke Recycles program, with its long history since 1989, has expanded from four pick-up locations to about 160 locations with over 1,500 bins. Bins are separated out by material, such as cardboard, glass, newspaper and magazines, and different types of plastics. Each bin has an infographic or text of some sort letting you know what can be recycled in that certain area to make it easier for students to differentiate between items.
The dedication to recycling is clear, as you can see bins about wherever you go along with a poster, placecard, or some other information describing what can be recycled in that bin. Reducing waste is not only prioritized in academic and residence buildings, but in dining halls as well. Duke Dining has instituted a ban on disposable plastics in 2018, as well as placed compost trays in both the Broadhead Center (WU) and Marketplace.
Though immense strides have been taken, the results from last year’s waste audit and predictions of this past one have made it clear that more needs to be done to educate students on the importance of recycling and composting, and how to do it efficiently. Here are some ways to educate ourselves on how to be smart about waste at Duke:
1) To be or not to be recycled
To make information more clear, some recycling centers have made posters and other infographics about what to recycle in certain bins. An exhaustive list of recyclable items that Duke Recycles will take can be found here! If you have any questions about when the recycling gets picked up or if you have a certain material not specified in the previous list, you can check out their FAQs.
Now that we’ve addressed what can and can’t be recycled, it may be a bit difficult to see what each bin is for. Let’s go into a general breakdown of a recycling room in a residence hall:
The first few bins (with blue tops) will be for separating paper based products. This includes envelopes, magazines, and thin cardboard like thin packaging. Bigger cardboard items should be placed off to the side! The middle few bins will typically be for more general recyclable items, such as plastic bottles and other plastics that have a recycling symbol with a number between 1 and 7. These bins also have a blue top, but will have circles rather than long rectangles to differentiate the two. The last few bins (with green tops) will be more for general recyclable items, such as aluminium cans and glass. Note that most food-contaminated items like wrappers and other food bags (including regular plastic Ziplock bags) are not recyclable.
2) Waste Reduction 101
Our education on other ways to reduce waste are necessary as well! Following the Spring 2022 Waste Audit, it is vital to share out information about composting to better educate students on the topic. Notice that for some of the items you can’t recycle like pizza boxes, it can be composted! Not all materials are created equal, so not everything that can’t be recycled will be compostable. Be sure to check out this composting training for more info on this! Their composting education initiative -- which includes events, informative flyers, and social media campaigns -- will continue to go on until April 10th, so be sure to follow them to stay updated!
Another way to reduce waste is at the dining halls! Though the pandemic enforced the use of compostable takeout containers, most eateries in the Broadhead Center have started offering reusable to-go containers! All you need to do is ask for a reusable container at checkout and get your food as normal. If the reusable container doesn’t work for you, some eateries have even reverted back to plates and metal utensils! Just ask for them before you order and you’re well on your way to reduce waste at the dining halls!
3) Additional Opportunities!
In addition to on-campus services, there are other ways that you can keep true to reducing waste in your life! Green Devils have partnered with the Fillaree to create a zero-waste project for students to refill their hygiene products, like toothpaste, shampoo, and conditioner. Please sign up at the link if you’re interested!
Next up we have some ways to help out with cleaning up waste around Duke and Durham! For year-round waste info, Don’t Waste Durham is a great way to keep updated! This organization covers topics like instituting reusable bags in stores and even policies for plastic prevention. For more volunteer-based opportunities in waste reduction, you can join some events by Keep Durham Beautiful. Their upcoming Creek week event from March 12-19th is a great way to get involved with picking up waste around local waterways!