by Micah Wilkins, Editor-in-Chief
One of Recycling’s main concerns this semester has been the disposable cups given out by the new café in Sunderland, the Owl’s Nest. The café has become a popular spot for students to get their caffeine fix, but the only cups they have to offer are not reusable.
More than 3,000 cups are used every month, a huge number according to Gladfelter Manager Brian O’Laughlin.
“If students come to this school they should be responsible for bringing their own mug [to the café],” O’Laughlin said. “But we’re using almost 4,000 cups a month? That tells me they don’t care.”
Though these cups are “Eco-Products” and can be composted, they have to be taken to a facility off campus that has an industrial composter that can process them.
And though the lids claim to be recyclable, they can not be processed at the recycling center, so they all end up in the trash.
According to Taylor Chappell, who has been on Recycling Crew for two years, it costs the school over $90 to take the cups to be composted. These trips to the composting facility are made about once every two weeks according to Chappell and the cost adds up quickly.
However, even though the cups are compostable, the vast majority end up in trash cans. Recycling goes through the trash, usually taking out things that can be recycled or composted. However, according to Chappell, it is a lot of work for the crew.
“It’s the responsibility of everyone else to decide whether or not something’s recyclable,” she said. “[Sorting through the trash to find recyclables] isn’t our job. And we don’t always get everything.”
To reduce the use of these cups, Chappell has set out a crate of clean, reusable mugs from the free store outside of the café and Gladfelter, which she cleans and replaces regularly. The Owl’s Nest would have its own reusable mugs, but the space is simply too small, according to O’Laughlin. In addition, O’Laughlin is all too familiar with students taking cups and other dishes from dining places, giving the café further reasoning to not provide their own mugs.
The best alternative was to buy the cups the café currently uses, which are environmentally friendly, and three times as expensive as traditional disposable cups.
“My hope was that students would bring their own mugs,” O’Laughlin said. “But if we’re going to sell coffee we’re going to have to have a cup people can walk away with.”
The Recycling Crew met with O’Laughlin, Sustainability Manager Jenna Marshman and the café boss Marc Santos Nov. 28 to discuss potential solutions to cutting down the use of these cups.
The Owl’s Nest will begin selling travel mugs starting next semester, which can be purchased with Flex dollars. Hopefully the ceramics department can be involved, so that the mugs sold in the café are student-made, which would “benefit the whole campus,” Chappell said. Recycling will also continue to provide free store cups outside of the café.
“Next semester we’re going to try and incentivise people to bring their own mug, moreso now than before,” O’Laughlin said.
While the use of the disposable cups is unavoidable in some situations, they are simply being overused, according to Chappell.
“We’re not trying to completely get rid of them,” she said. “But the majority of cup usage is able to be reduced. It’s not impossible or difficult.”
The white disposable cups in Gladfelter have also plagued the Recycling Crew for years. Though these cups can be composted, Recycling has been throwing them away because they have to ship them off to get composted too frequently.
“It’s sad and we don’t want to do that, but it’s costing us money,” Chappell said.
With the recent Trashocolypse, Recycling Crew was hoping to raise awareness, bringing attention to the excessive and unnecessary amount of waste that we produce every day. From getting take out in styrofoam containers to scraping our plates into the compost, students are only adding to the campus’s total waste, which can be easily diminished.
“We’re all for reducing our waste,” said Chappell. “It’s just a matter of students doing their part.”