What is wrong with us?

Sometimes I get really frustrated when I’m at work in the recycling room because countless times students come in and throw out their trash. What’s wrong with that you ask? The issue I have with students throwing out their “trash” is that a majority of what they’re throwing out isn’t trash. I spend a lot of time going through the trash (you may say that’s gross but my concern for the environment is higher than my concern for my hand hygiene), and I pick out pieces of “trash” that can actually be recycled.

I don’t know how many times I’ve pulled water bottles, soda cans, full notebooks/binders, cardboard boxes, etc. out of the trash bags, reducing the volume of those full bags by half. I get so frustrated because I make a lot of signs (from the discarded paper) explicitly explaining where students should place their items. How hard is it to separate your trash? I know in Funnelle hall each room gets three trash cans, two for trash and one for mixed recyclables. I mean, come on! How hard is it to just walk that one step over to your recycling bin to throw something out?

My roommate and I are so taken with this third can that it fills up sooner than our trash cans do. A majority of the trash that we naturally have is recyclable now, thanks to Oswego County’s acceptance of 1-7 plastics, aluminum cans, paper, cardboard, etc. They list everything that can be recycled right on the web site – Oswego County Recycling Program. So if you weren’t sure what to recycle, there it is for you!oswegocountyrecy

I just don’t understand how so many people don’t recognize recycling programs that are going on all over campus. I am curious about why students don’t recycle! Is it because you just don’t think about it? Do you think it’s dumb? Do you just write it off because you think that it gets separated anyways? Or do you just don’t know what to recycle?

What can be done to change people’s attitudes? I’m really curious. I get so cynical sometimes because I think that nothing is working; people don’t care about anything anymore. Just themselves. It’s the narcissistic Facebook generation that’s growing up now, and they just care about parties on the weekends and updating their statuses via their iPhones.

I know, I know. This is not an accurate representation of my generation, but I feel like this is the case a lot of the time. I do so many social awareness programs, like holding discussions, speaking at events, presenting fliers, showcasing posters, spreading awareness via word-of-word, etc. And I feel like these pleas are falling on deaf ears. Maybe it’s because our generation is facing overload right now. We’re inundated with so much information, thanks to the Internet, that we just shut down. We become super specific, focusing on things that directly affect us, and nothing else.

But we can’t do this! At least in my opinion I think that we can’t do this. Because of the Internet, we should become more and more global and aware. We don’t have to do something for everyone in the world, but if we are open to societal changes and norm changes, then maybe we can help the world that we live in. I guess my biggest issue is living sustainably, which a majority of us don’t do. But, we’re making progress, so for now, I’ll lay my cynicism aside in exchange for optimism.

The U.S. itself has a long way to go in terms of reducing our environmental impact, but we’ve made progress. The biggest area that we have room to grow is in the waste section, in my opinion. According to the EPA’s Municipal Solid Waste (MSW), in the year 2007 alone, “Americans generated about 254 million tons of trash and recycled and composted 85 million tons of this material, equivalent to a 33.4 percent recycling rate” Compared to 1985’s percent of 10.1, we’re doing pretty good.
msw
But, we could do so much for the environment if we just changed our behaviors a little bit. If we just recycled more water bottles or just paid attention to where we were throwing our trash, we could instate better, sustainable habits. We need to take our eyes off our phones and computers long enough to look at the environment around us and enjoy it before it disappears, which will happen if we don’t change our behaviors.

Please recycle! It’s a start! That’s all I’m asking for right now. Please pay attention to what you’re throwing away and question if it’s really trash or if it could be reused.

About the Author

Jr. SUNY Oswego Journalism major Global Studies Minor Environmental activist, cultural advocate, uninhibited dancer, singer, writer, traveler.
Email: kraymond@oswego.edu
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