WMU Recycles

Temia Chambliss

Nathaniel Smith fills a 13-gallon trash bag with paper and water bottles. Every week, rather than separate these recyclables from other wastes, he puts everything in one large bag and throws it into the dumpster.

Lisa Horn also discards a bag filled with mainly food wastes. Every week, unlike Smith, Horn separates her items and put them into the marked recycling bins outside of her residence hall.

“Recycling takes too much time,” Smith said.

Nathaniel Smith, 21, is an on-campus resident at Western Michigan University. Smith said it is much easier to just put everything into a single bag instead of separating and putting garbage into several different containers.

“If everybody else is going green, one person not recycling will not make a difference,” Smith said.

Lisa Horn, 20, also is an on-campus resident and a WMU junior. She said she believes recycling is very important and a necessary part of life.

“I recycle to ensure the preservation and overall health of the earth,” Horn said.

Western Michigan University is trying to make recycling accessible to on-campus residents. Little blue recycling bins marked “We Recycle” can be found in every resident’s room around campus. Larger recycled bins also are located by the main doors in the lobby and marked paper, plastic, Styrofoam and glass. Just outside many of the housing entrances are dumpsters for both recyclables and the non-recyclables.

With recycling bins so accessible around the residence halls, students living on-campus are more likely to make recycling part of their daily routines.

“I used to recycle when I lived in the residence halls because it was convenient, but now that I live off-campus not so much,” said Brandise Tyler, 21, a WMU senior.

Tyler lives in Concord Place Apartments. She said recycling receptacles aren’t readily available there.

“No recycling bins came in my room like when I was in the Res. Halls,” Tyler said. “If you’re an off-campus resident and you want to recycle the responsibility is more on you.”

When students move off-campus they no longer have readily available recycling bins at their doorsteps

Ryan Crawley, 22, a senior who lives off-campus with a friend in Sage Terrace Apartments said most of what he and his roommate throw away, such as paper towels and food packaging, is likely recyclable.

“I take out about a bag a week, and we fill that bag,” Crawley said.

Living on-campus provides more than the convenience of accessible recycling bins. Environmental education is also part of regular programming in the halls. Educational programs that explain the importance of recycling and going green give on-campus residents the know-how on being environmentally wise.

“Many students living off-campus don’t recycle because the resources aren’t available or they aren’t sure of what can be recycled,” Crawley said.

Katie Messner, 20, a junior majoring in practical writing at WMU, has been a resident assistant for almost two years. Messner said she believes that the recurring cues from programs or bulletin boards and the frequent the display bins around the residence halls makes people more conscious of their usage.

“As a resident assistant I am able to spread the word about recycling,” Messner said. “Through programs and bulletin boards I can educate residents on good environmental habits.”

Messner, who has practiced good recycling habits since childhood, noticed through conversations with other residents that even with the prompts to recycle some don’t recycle because they don’t know what can and cannot be recycled.

“If recycling was something that was taught in your family, then you would be accustomed to it, you would do it more because it would be normal,” Crawley said.

Other students may not recycle, Messner said, because they don’t see the environmental impact.

“I think it has to get worse before it gets better. People don’t see the changes in the environment so they ignore it,” Horn said.

Tyler said she believes if students knew the impacts they would be more inclined to seek out and utilize other external resources that aren’t provided for them at their off- campus apartments.

“I just don’t want to recycle or go green because everybody else is doing it. People are going green now because it’s cool,” Tyler said, “I care about the environment because I have to breathe in this air every day.”