Are students recycling?

The Region of Waterloo has been working to promote recycling and composting in the student neighbourhoods

Photo by Jessica Dik
Photo by Jessica Dik

For anyone walking through the student neighbourhoods of Waterloo, one thing is abundantly clear: students produce a lot of garbage. So how much of that garbage should be recycled, and how many students are actually recycling?

The Region of Waterloo supports a variety of waste management initiatives, including the blue box program and green bin program.

The blue box program accepts all plastics with the one to seven recycling symbol, as well as paper, newsprint, cans, bottles and various packaging. This material is all recycled in order to maintain effective waste management strategies.

The green bin program accepts all household organics and kitchen scraps, in addition to tissues, paper towels, greasy pizza boxes and pet waste.

According to Cari Rastas Howard, project manager of waste management programs at the Region of Waterloo, there is only one landfill in the Waterloo area.

“The more that we can do to extend the life of the landfill by diverting waste through other programs — that’s a benefit to everyone in the community,” said Rastas Howard.

Because many students attending Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Waterloo are not from Waterloo, the Region works to get the student residences to participate in waste management.

Every fall, letters are sent to landlords in the student area, along with posters, information and magnets to present to the student homes.

“A lot of the students we are seeing these days have grown up with the blue box program. They are familiar with it,” said Rastas Howard. “We are seeing some challenges when it comes to the green bin program, but that is across the region, and again is a newer program.”

Joel Seetahal, a fourth-year communication studies student at Laurier, said while he recycles in his hometown of Scarborough, in Waterloo he is less inclined to do so.

“It annoys me that where I live in Waterloo, our landlord does garbage pick-up and discourages recycling,” explained Seetahal. “He gets us just to throw everything in garbage bags for disposal.”

Brooke Hickmott, a third-year geography major at Laurier, said she recycles on a daily basis both at home and in public spaces.

“I recycle for multiple reasons,” she said. “Waste reduction, job creation, energy saving, to preserve the space in our landfills, limiting my carbon footprint, reducing global warming, the reduction in waste water pollution and the impact of plastics on wildlife.”

According to Rastas Howard, raising awareness on waste management is beneficial for the environment and the community. Not only can people dispose of materials in recycling and composting bins, but they can also focus on purchasing more environmentally friendly

products that use less packaging.

“All it takes is a few extra seconds a day to think about where you are putting items when you are disposing of them,” she said.

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