The world is going green. We want to feel like the way we live will make us happy, keep us healthy and save our planet. But is greener always better? Not always.
Emporia State is taking its own initiatives toward being a healthier and greener campus. We have separate bins for recycling in many campus buildings, and we are making strides toward going paperless.
Recycling takes our waste, melts it down and turns it into something we can use again. That is the idea, but it isn’t exactly the reality. Not all materials are recyclable, nor are they actually being recycled.
The chasing arrows on the bottom of plastics do not mean they are recyclable, but rather, mark each plastic into chemical categories that may or may not be recyclable. Only markers listed by a recycling facility will actually be recycled by that facility. The rest are often sent to waste disposal, the very trash site we tried to keep them out of.
Something as easily recycled as Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) usually isn’t recycled at all because, when broken down, there are brown particulates that cause color spots that make the new plastic hard to sell.
Recycling is a business, and like any other business, there must be a demand for what is being created. If there is no demand, then a material isn’t recycled, even though it is recyclable.
Some materials with no demand in the United States are sent somewhere else, like China, to be recycled and sold there. This means using more energy and producing more CO2 along the way. Coupled with the fact that the emissions produced during recycling are actually greater than the product saved, we are, in effect, trading one negative for another.
Air quality surveys often include recycling facilities as a source of harmful air-polluting emissions. It would be better to simply reduce the amount of waste we produce in the first place.
While recycling electronics like phones and computers is good, we should also buy new computers that are Energy Star certified. In one year, one computer can produce the same amount of CO2 as driving a car almost 2,000 miles. With all the computers and cell phones on campus, it makes me wonder how effective our initiatives really are.
I am an advocate for being good to the environment and making earth-healthy choices. I think it is just as imperative that we, as students and as responsible citizens, question the methods we are implementing towards being green. Are our methods actually effective, or do they just make us feel like we are doing good?