Posted by: hazelmeda | May 7, 2012

Seeing red about green (editorial)

Witsies don’t realise the value of the things they throw away.

The university recycled only 22% of its waste in 2005, according to Andries Norval, Grounds, External Sports Facilities and Waste Manager. That figure rose to 52% in 2011. The improvement in recyclable volumes is admirable and Wits apparently does better than its peer institutions. But students and administration can do more.

It is disheartening to walk past the Matrix and see the special bins for cans, paper and cardboard overflowing with non-recyclables. Meanwhile, every rubbish bin on campus is stuffed full of discarded drink cans and empty plastic water bottles.

These items are recyclable, but will probably end up in a landfill because they have been mixed with half-eaten hamburgers and styrofoam covered in curry. Contaminated materials cannot be recycled.

What is it that stops us from doing the right thing?

Does the university community need more campaigns on the need to separate waste at source? As students and staff members, we need to take more personal responsibility. But the university also needs to do its part by putting more concrete rubbish bins in high-traffic areas like the Matrix and at bus stops.

This will ensure that people are not tempted to put rubbish into the recycling containers because the rubbish bins in such busy places are too small or too few.

The university also needs to place more recycling containers around campus, especially in busy places like the path in between Northwest and Southwest Engineering buildings, where there are about 15 rubbish bins but no recycling containers. Members of the Wits community would then find it more convenient to recycle as they walked around campus.

Perhaps the university could also put recycling bins in every residence. Recycling boxes could be placed in every administrative office and not just in those departments that have volunteered to participate in the office recycling programme.

Of course, there is a cost associated with such initiatives, but the cost could partly be offset by the sale of the recyclables. With thousands of students and staff generating so much waste every day, Wits could turn rubbish into rands.

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