The Writers Recycling Initiative

Photo courtesy of Dr. Meghan McGuire.

Evy Brunelle ~ News Editor 

   Assistant Professor of English Dr. Meghan McGuire received a $500 grant from Keep Virginia Beautiful 30 in 30 Green Grant program. 

  According to the Keep Virginia Beautiful website the “30 in 30 Green Grant program is designed to empower groups all across Virginia to make an environmental impact in their own communities. To honor our commitment to the Commonwealth, Keep Virginia Beautiful funds thirty grant recipients, announced one each day in the month of June. These grants are awarded to schools, parks, counties and towns, environmental groups, associations, nonprofits, and service organizations in four different categories: Community Beautification, Cigarette Litter Prevention, Litter Prevention, and Recycling.” 

     Dr. McGuire is using this grant towards the ‘Writers Recycle’ initiative, which she said, “aims to reduce writing instrument waste in our community. As an academic institution and a community of students and scholars, we go through a significant number of pens, pencils, highlighters, and dry erase markers every semester. Up until now, that waste gets thrown away and goes straight into our landfills.”

     She explained, “The ‘Writers Recycle’ project hopes to reduce our institution’s writing instrument waste by teaming up with TerraCycle–a New Jersey based waste management company–to recycle pens, markers, mechanical pencils, and highlighters. TerraCycle is the only company in the country that recycles this form of waste, so I have used the funds from our Keep Virginia Beautiful Green Grant to purchase three of their zero-waste collection and shipping boxes. These official boxes are located in Carnegie, Knight-Capron Library, and the Center for Community Engagement. Additional collection boxes can be found in Dillard Fine Arts Center, Wilmer Writing Center, and Schewel 111. With the help of students from our Environmental Club, I also plan to add 25 more collection boxes across campus over the next few weeks. My hope is to make this a permanent part of our recycling and sustainability practices on campus.” 

     Dr. McGuire said, “I am impressed by the university’s recycling program and their dedication to sustainability. The single stream recycling available on campus makes it easy and convenient to recycle a variety of common items. The university also recycles batteries and printer cartridges, so I think our school leads the way in sustainability practices. Hopefully, this program will help us reduce our waste even more as an academic community.” 

      Senior Lindsey North said the University’s recycling program could use some improvements. She said, “It is not awful, but I think it could definitely be improved, especially on Southside. They said that there are recycling bins outside of the townhouses, but I have yet to see one and it bothers me that I am not able to easily recycle the materials that I use on a daily basis.” 

     North also said, “I think that the recycling bins that are located around campus could be a lot bigger. I think that we go through more recyclable materials than we do with other trash materials. When a recycling bin is full, students and faculty tend to just throw their recyclables into the trash can instead of looking for another recycling bin. I know from previous experiences in the dorms on campus, that the recycling bins are a lot smaller than the regular trash bins. Also, there seems to be a lot more trash bins than there are recycling bins. If we added a few more recycling bins and tried to get bigger recycling bins, then I think students and faculty would recycle a lot more often.” 

     Lilly Smith, a junior, said, “It is very encouraging to see more recycling bins located around campus, especially those that are attached to trash cans as well. It has been proven that when a trash can and a recycling bin are close together, people are more likely to recycle, if their items can be, if it is near a trash can. People do not want to go out of their ways to recycle which is sad, but true. I have appreciated Lynchburg’s efforts to be more sustainable by implementing more recycling initiatives.”

     She also said, “Even though the conjoined trash and recycling bins have been placed around campus, these are not as available for students that live in homes, apartments, or townhouses unless upon request. Unless these students are environmentally conscious and concerned, most do not bother with separating their trash from their recycling or seek out the different bins. With the current pandemic, the campus has reverted to using disposable utensils rather than reusable. Ensuring that any utensils and plates are green and easily compostable is an easy way to keep our waste down. 

     Smith continued, “One big initiative I would like to see the school implement is decreasing our electricity use. This involves installing lights that turn themselves off when not in use after a certain amount of time, turning off computers in labs that are not being used, and even putting up the “Don’t forget to turn off the lights” green sticker around light switches all help to remind people to be aware of their electricity use.” 

    Environmental studies professor  Dr. Laura Henry-Stone explained, “The University’s recycling program has some aspects that work really well and some that could use improvement. Many of the things that work well are somewhat invisible to students. For instance, during the demolition of McWane Hall, almost everything from the building was salvaged and recycled. We reported very high rates of recycling that year. Also, the dining hall recycles a substantial amount of cardboard and cans, and last July, they also started sending all food scraps to a large, commercial composting facility.” 

     However, Dr. Henry-Stone says that the main problem with the University’s recycling program is “the effective recycling of personal waste depends on the end-user putting waste in the correct bin, and then on the housekeeping staff collecting and depositing it appropriately. Different areas of campus have different procedures in place for this process, which makes all of it a bit confusing and leaves a lot of room for mistakes.” 

       She also emphasized that the University’s sustainability program goes beyond recycling. “As the Director of Sustainability, I have a lot of goals for long-term improvement of our program, but I have limited time to do the kind of strategic planning and budgeting necessary for this kind of long-term success. So on a year-to-year basis, I tend to prioritize the activities that students express the most interest in, either through the Environmental Sustainability Society or through our campus sustainability intern program, or in my upper level courses in Sustainability Studies. If we had a genuine sustainability coordinator on our staff, that person could work with students every year to coordinate the recycling program and also help oversee other aspects of our campus sustainability program, such as coordinating the STARS campus sustainability assessment that I’ve had students helping with over the last year.” 

    Dr. Henry-Stone noted that the University is also, “actively pursuing the installation of PV arrays on campus over four different parking lots, which will collectively produce about 18% of the campus’s electricity and will also serve as a demonstration of renewable energy installations. Clearly, solar panels will be far more visible to the student body and the wider community than methane produced at a landfill in another part of the state. This is another example of an initiative in which we have to balance our education and outreach goals with our physical impact on our environmental resources. The ideal is to pursue both at once, but sometimes we have to prioritize one over the other.” 

    To find out more about the The Keep Virginia Beautiful 30 in 30 Green Grant program visit https://keepvirginiabeautiful.org/programs/30-in-30-green-grants/#mission.

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