USF Students and Faculty Promote Recycling Movement at RecycleMania

Nearly 100 students listened to local bands, made environmentally friendly crafts and answered trivia questions in the Marshall Student Center Amphitheater Feb. 23.

Loud music and opportunities to win free items such as water bottles and Frisbees greeted students at USF’s RecycleFest. The mission behind the activities encouraged students to save the world through recycling.

“I think a lot of important movements start with students and start with the younger generation, so I think it’s our time to take on this project,” said Melissa Wolfe, communications and marketing coordinator of the Patel College of Global Sustainability.

Wolfe said young people have spurred change in the  past decades, whether the issue was women’s rights, equality or protesting the Vietnam War.  She believes today’s most important issue is the environment.

“The problem is that society is so separated and isolated that it’s hard to get a movement of people together, while at a university, we are used to bringing together students and collaborating on big ideas,” Wolfe said. “So, I think it’s our turn.”

RecycleFest was the kick-off of the month-long event RecycleMania 2015. The Student Environmental Association organized the event to educate students about recycling and to promote awareness. Next month, the SEA will host seminars, provide an electronic-waste drive, teach composting and show a documentary on plastic waste.

College students should be concerned about waste management for many reasons, activists say. Ninety-five percent of the forests in the U.S. have already been cut down, according to Princeton University’s “Top 10 Reasons to Recycle.” Wildlife can be protected by reducing demand for wood and other resources such as petroleum and mineral ores.

Furthermore, reusing materials helps manufacturers avoid using toxic chemicals that are used to treat virgin materials, environmental advocates say. Protecting our water and soil from toxins and reducing the amount of trash in landfills is vital to providing clean water and healthy food for people, they say.

Recycling is responsible for 1.1 million jobs, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Even with such benefits, only 32.5 percent of waste in the U.S. is recycled, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council website.

RecycleMania will measure how much USF contributes to these numbers, said Kirsti Martinez, president of the Student Environmental Association and a junior majoring in environmental biology, and environmental science and policy.

The amount of waste produced by USF and the weight of recycled products will be recorded and published on the Patel College of Global Sustainability website.

Some students at RecycleFest shared their tips on how students can avoid contributing to the trash.

“I think the biggest thing is to reduce, because a lot of plastics can only be recycled so many times into new things,” Martinez said. “Glass and aluminum can be recycled a lot easier, but even then it’s just better to reduce the amount of waste that you’re producing.”

Calyn Lee, a junior majoring in environmental science and policy, said students could pick up trash when they see it and put recycling in the appropriate bins.

Lee and her roommates shop with reusable bags at the grocery store, turn off the lights in their apartment and unplug unused appliances.

Lee said recycling has saved her money in addition to protecting the environment. She buys less, and her bills are lower. Lee believes college is a perfect time to learn how to recycle.

“This is when people make changes,” she said.  “Usually, when people go to college, they’re more open-minded.”