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Opinions mixed about campus recycling

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Posted: Saturday, October 31, 2009 9:00 pm

Gonzaga University tries to do its part to encourage students to recycle.  Still, some students think that the resources offered are not enough.

Students have seen the bins stacked around campus. They intermittently toss empty water bottles and old coursework into them as they stroll from the dorms to class, and try hard to decipher the little numbers on the bottom of plastic containers, trying to decipher whether it's a "1" or a "2" or just trash.

"Gonzaga has recycling bins to instill the practice of recycling," said Alvin Ma, a resident adviser in Twohy.

Ma believes that because of the number of recycling bins available in the dorms, students are actively doing their part to help.

Other students think that the University isn't doing enough.

"I still see so many items that can be recycled thrown into the trash cans.  I don't think Gonzaga students are that apathetic, I think the University doesn't have enough recycling containers," senior Kayla Weber said. 

"For students who live off campus, we can recycle a lot more. Where are the big bins outside the dorms? I only see trash receptacles," she said.

Once picked up from inside the dorms, recycling is taken to an exterior recycling bin, where it is collected by Spokane Solid Waste Management and hauled to a recycling plant.

Gonzaga is a small link in the chain of countrywide recycling.

"The first step is apparent. Gonzaga needs to be active with their recycling practices. You can't just set up bins and put a sign on them, you have to stand behind your advocation," Weber said.

Recycling not only benefits the Earth and its resources, but it also creates jobs and provides income. The U.S. recycling industry consists of approximately 29,345 establishments, which employ over 950,000 people, generate an annual payroll of nearly $34 billion and gross more than $222 billion in annual revenues, according to the Washington State Recycling Association.

In response to recycling critics, experts have begun to calculate just how efficient and effective recycling really is.

"The best recycling is closed-loop: Steel cans and glass bottles are recycled into more cans and bottles, which are in turn recyclable. But some materials are currently ‘down cycled' into less desirable products that can be recycled no further. Soft-drink bottles made from PET (polyethylene terephthalate), for example, often end up as polyester fibers in clothing or carpets," the Wb site reported.

"It is possible to make new PET bottles from recycled stock, but the process is currently more expensive than making them from petroleum."

Aluminum, for example, requires 96 percent less energy to make from recycled cans than it does to process from bauxite. At the other end of the spectrum, recycled glass uses only about 21 percent less energy — but it still comes out ahead, according to a study by Washington-based environmental consultant Jeffrey Morris.

Recycled plastic bottles use 76 percent less energy and newsprint about 45 percent less, Morris found. Across the board, the key factor is the energy intensity of extracting virgin materials, which is an order of magnitude higher than that of recovering the same material through recycling.

With the increasing cost of raw materials, recyclables are becoming more valuable. Currently Spokane County accepts newspapers, phonebooks, corrugated cardboard and brown paper bags, glass, aluminum and tin, and plastic No.1 and 2.  This however, does not include the masses of non-corrugated cardboard products such as cereal and beer boxes. 

Gonzaga must adhere to the Spokane County collection criteria, so while Spokane County works to improve its own recycling practices, Gonzaga students can find bins for glass and cans, paper, and corrugated cardboard located in every building on campus. 

"We are a force to be reckoned with," Weber said.  "If we try to create a place where recycling is natural and expected, maybe we can evoke the change that Spokane County as a whole needs."

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