Recycling should be higher priority for SF State

Picture a plethora of trash cans, scattered about our beautiful campus, overflowing with half-eaten pizza, empty soda cans and discarded essays.

We’ve all seen it before — the green and blue colored bins in the student center — that remain practically empty while the trash from the black bins spill onto the floor.

The signs prominently placed above each bin — blue for recycling and green for compost — go largely ignored as trash piles up and eventually spills over the brim of both the black and traditional trashcans.

For a school that has been placed on the Princeton Green Honor Roll for environmental sustainability, the general disdain for proper recycling protocol on our campus is disturbing.

We live in San Francisco, one of the most progressive cities of the country, if not the world, yet our inability to follow simple instructions — printed in large block letters accompanied by pictures — makes us look lazy at best, and ignorant and out of touch at worst.

There are ample reasons to recycle, some of them obvious, some not so much.

First, it’s a law. Composting and recycling are requirements under a 2009 ordinance passed by the Board of Supervisors. The Mandatory Composting and Recycling Ordinance requires city residents and businesses to separate all compost and recycling into the appropriate bins.

If every person in San Francisco followed the ordinance, 90 percent of all city waste would be diverted from landfills, according to the San Francisco Department of the Environment. As of 2010, the city boasted a 77 percent diversion rate, one of the highest in the country. But SF State’s diversion rate tops out at 70 percent, a full 7 points behind our noncollegiate counterparts.

Recycling also spares landfill space, something we’re eventually going to run out of if we keep chucking our recyclables onto random chunks of land.

Starting Oct. 1, the city of San Francisco will officially outlaw any use of plastic bags, which is a baby step in the right direction. But baby steps aren’t going to get us where we need to be, especially when they come in the form of regulations passed down from above.

Problems like these are better addressed from the bottom up. The Board of Supervisors can sign laws until their pens run dry, but if we don’t each take responsibility for our actions, nothing will ever change.

As it turns out, recycling isn’t that hard. Recycling receptacles aren’t hard to find on our campus and most are clearly labeled with instructions on how to sort our undesirables.

If you have the odd item that doesn’t fit into one of the categories listed on the handy receptacles, don’t fret. Sustainable SF State has a website that will tell you how to recycle just about anything, from cardboard to keys to kitchen grease.

All it really takes is a couple of extra seconds from each of us to look at the trash we’re holding, match it up to the picture and toss it in the appropriate bin. It’s easy to do, it’ll only cost you a couple extra seconds and you might just feel good about yourself when you do it.

As a community, we must live up to San Francisco’s reputation for environmental excellence and make the right decision in the split-second when an empty bottle leaves our hands.

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