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Campus News

So you say you’re an environmentalist?

MaKailah McKinley, Recycling Crew

In the spring of 2010 AD, the year of our Lord President William S. Pfeiffer, there was a catrashtrophe.  The Recycling Crew members spontaneously combusted and left the Warren Wilson community with no means to process their waste.  Trash and recyclables piled up.  Day after day the situation worsened until trash and recyclables overflowed from their trash sheds.  The Trashocalypse had come. Somehow we survived.

So, that isn’t exactly how it all went down.

Some of you might recall waking up last semester to find all of main campus decorated with bags full of trash, trash that stayed there for the rest of the week. You may have been one of the fortunate few who witnessed the piles of recyclables on Cowpie’s lawn each day at lunch. The recycling crew’s efforts to educate the campus last semester may have worked then, but now, some of us have had a break and many are new to campus.

Firstly, consider this: if something doesn’t get recycled then it goes to the landfill. One of our crew’s favorite sayings is “There is no away” because when you throw something “away” it is actually being dumped into the Buncombe County Landfill.

During Trashocalypse we used doors and paint, which had come through the recycling center in just a matter of weeks, to make signs informing you on the background of a few recyclables. In case you have forgotten, or have never known, we are presenting them here once more.

Plastics are made from petroleum and never decompose; they break down into smaller pieces of plastic. All of the plastics that have ever been created are still here in some form.

Glass bottles are made from sand (specifically silica) and can be recycled infinitely into more glass. Glass is one of the least potentially toxic waste products that we produce.

Aluminum cans require 80-200 years to decompose in a landfill, but have the potential to be infinitely recycled into more aluminum. Last fall, not recycling aluminum became illegal in the state of North Carolina. Here on our campus it is more sustainable to choose aluminum products over glass products for several reasons which will be explained in an article to come.

Paper requires 2-4 weeks to decompose when not in a landfill and 15 years when in a landfill. Only 36% of the fibers used to make new paper products in our country are derived from recycled sources.

Food waste, when disposed of in a landfill, is the main contributor to the formation of landfill gas (methane, CO2, NOX, VOX, SOX). Currently we can only process 300 lbs of food waste into compost a day; the rest goes to the landfill. So, do not be confused when the compost graphs in Gladfelter and Cowpie have high numbers—it is not a good thing.

Last year, Fall 09-Spring 10, we processed 33 tons (66,000 lbs) of compost and had to landfill 31 tons (62,000 lbs) of food waste. We accumulated 141 tons (282,000 lbs) of recyclables. Our landfill contribution was a grand total of 284 tons (568,000 lbs), that amount of waste could fill Gladfelter twice. What the recycling crew managed last year, our total waste stream, was 462 tons (924,000 lbs) of discarded items. So now you know the reason why reducing what you consume, reusing what you can and sorting your recyclables correctly is so important.

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