By Sarah Frazer || Staff Writer
At the beginning of this semester, F&M students and faculty returned to campus to find that Lancaster County, and consequently F&M, had significantly changed its recycling policies. Many in the F&M community have been confused about these new changes, so, to shed some light, The College Reporter spoke with Nic Auwaerter and Tom Simpson from Facilities Management. Before any deeper explanation of the new policies and how they came about, perhaps it would be useful to provide some key tips from Nic and Tom on the Do’s and Don’ts of recycling:
Use less stuff! The long story short of these recycling changes is that less can be recycled than before. The best thing you can do for the planet is to simply consume less stuff that would need to be recycled or composted or thrown in a landfill.
Buy cans over glass, and buy glass over plastic. Different recyclable items have different values in terms of their usability once recycled. Perhaps the easiest example of this is paper and cardboard. Corrugated cardboard is worth the most since it can be used and remade into the most things. Magazines on the other hand are practically worthless, as they cannot be recycled into many other usable paper products.
Read the label on the bottom of your containers. Plastic packaging with a 1 or 2 inside the recycling triangle on the bottom of the item can be recycled. Everything else cannot be according to the new policies.
Put something in the recycling bin if you are not sure it is recyclable. Avoid “wishful recycling,” as this common mistake is called. While it may seem like the better option, to recycle something that does not meet the qualifications slows down the process and can even contaminate a container of recycling (see the next tip). Also frankly, with these new policies, if you are not sure whether an item can be recycled, chances are you are right.
Put something in the recycling bin if it has liquid or food or chemicals on it. These chemicals could contaminate the entire container of recycling, making it all unusable.
Other than determining what these new changes are, the next question one may ask is why they were made in the first place. While the answer is not that the Trump administration caused a trade war, it does pertain to China, whose government closed its markets to U.S. recyclables. According to Tom and Nic, this decision has caused major issues for the U.S. recycling industry, which cannot handle nearly the volume of recycled material that China can. While other countries in Southeast Asia have begun taking in U.S recycling, they do not have nearly the same capacity as China.
One of the recycling-related issues here in Lancaster County is that we are limited by a single-stream recycling process that makes it more likely for items to become contaminated. If a can or bottle is wet when it is put into the recycling, for instance, and that water gets on paper, then the paper is no longer able to be recycled. Having said that, there are locations on campus to deposit speciality items to be recycled. These drop-off spots include the bottom of College Center, in each College House, and in both libraries. There is a map on the school website that shows all locations.
To combat this reduction in recycling, Tom and Nic have other notes on how to be more eco-conscious. One suggestion is to not create waste in the first place, meaning don’t take a bag at CVS if you don’t have to, buy a reusable water bottle and similar goods, and do less online shopping since it creates a lot of waste from packaging and fuel is used to deliver the package. Once again, Tom and Nic emphasized the importance of not contaminating the recycling with non-recyclable goods, especially those with chemicals. Often included in contaminants is shredded paper, which gets over everything and isn’t really worth anything in the industry. Wishful recycling requires mechanical or human effort to separate the unusable products from usable ones: effort that requires the use of more resources. The simple solution to this is be aware of what can be recycled and throw something away if you are not sure. Nic and Tom again stressed that an important way students and members of the community can reduce waste is to consume fewer single-use, perishable items.
One key takeaway here, Nic and Tom explained, is that F&M and Facilities Management have no control over the recycling policies of Lancaster City. In fact, they are unhappy with the changes and are working to see that the F&M community can recycle as much as possible. There is much more information to go around when it comes to Lancaster’s new policies and to recycling policy in general, as it can be confusing for everyone. The College Reporter hopes to continue to update the F&M community with more info about how to recycle and to reduce the amount of overall waste. Stay tuned!
Senior Sarah Frazer is a Staff Writer. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.