CHATTANOOGA (UTC/The Loop) – Recycling has become a more and more visible part of our daily lives in Chattanooga over the last few years. Collection centers are sprinkled across the city and surrounding suburbs. The UTC campus features a few well-placed cans in campus buildings, as well as recycling bins in all the dorms.
Energy efficiency has become a more common phrase, as well. The 2 Northshore complex, home to Greenlife and Rock Creek Outfitters, is LEED certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), as is the brand new Carmike movie theater in downtown Chattanooga. Motion sensors have been installed in all UTC classrooms so that the lights will be automatically turned off when a room has been left empty.
All of this attention to the environment is definitely needed, but how much attention are Chattanooga residents paying to the environment? Trashcans in UTC classrooms are still full of bottles and cans. Those trashcans are not sorted to remove recyclable materials the same way city trashcans are not sorted to remove recyclable materials.
Some Chattanooga residents have curbside pickup provided by the city. “I have curbside recycling, every two weeks,” said Becca Stone, a North Chattanooga resident. “Except for glass, which I take to Warner Park. Why the city won’t pick up glass is beyond me.“
The reason for this is that people, with “human hands” sort recyclables at the Orange Grove recycling center. Glass recyclables break easily in curbside pickup and the shards of glass that become mixed in with the plastic and paper recyclables could injure someone.
Vincent Betro is also a North Chattanooga resident, but he and his family have chosen to pay for curbside recycling. Scenic City Recycling provides weekly residential recycle pickup for $15 per month, or $150 per year. Going with this option means having your glass picked up along with your paper, plastics, cans, and even computers and small electronics. Betro made the choice because it’s easier to have all of his recycling picked up at once, but also because he likes helping to create jobs and support Chattanooga’s recycling efforts.
Jaclynn Rhodes lives in East Ridge and doesn’t have curbside pickup, but still recycles anyway. “I do not have curbside recycling, so I take my recycling to the many facilities around town. I am thankful that Chattanooga has those.” This is a refreshing thing to hear after seeing so many trashcans and dumpsters filled with aluminum cans and cardboard boxes.
Dr. David Aborn is a professor in UTC’s Department of Biological and Environmental sciences and is also a faculty advisor for the student group Ecological Decisions for a Global Environment (EDGE). He says that initial recycling efforts in the dorms failed miserably because of a lack of education directed at the students in the dorms regarding how, where and what to recycle.
“Fast forward to 2007 when the campus environmental group, EDGE, successfully campaigned to have students vote in favor of a green fee.” Students now pay ten dollars each per semester. “A university-wide environmental task force that’s made up of faculty, staff and students was formed to oversee the spending of that money.” In the fall of 2008, things were worked out with Orange Grove so that UTC could have a recycling program in the dorms and in the University Center.
The reason for putting recycling bins in those locations was that they were chosen as the highest traffic areas with the highest likelihood of recyclables needing to be tossed out. Recycling bins have popped up here and there in a few additional spots on campus, but more money and more education is needed before the university can expand the campus recycling program.
Expanding the program also depends on the success of the program so far. “If people have been participating, then we’ll start talking about expanding to other parts of campus,” Aborn said. Both the library and Fletcher Hall requested recycling bins and have received them as part of the recycling initiative.
Some students, like Jennifer Long, rely mainly on a re-usable bottle like a Nalgene filled with water to get them through the day. If Long purchases a bottle of juice from the UC, she’ll hold onto the bottle until she finds a recycling bin to toss it into. When another option exists, sending a plastic bottle to a landfill just doesn’t seem like the smart thing to do.
Despite it being inconvenient to have to take glass to one of the recycling centers when she has curbside pickup for all the rest, Daisy Elliott, a Brainerd area resident, doesn’t mind. When asked if she would still recycle if she had to take all of her recyclables to Warner Park, her closest recycling location, she said yes with no hesitation. ”We can’t keep burying our trash,” Elliott said. ”We can re-use instead of making new.”
Students who want to learn more about Chattanooga’s recycling programs and guidelines, as well as more information about recycling should head to any of the following sites for more information.
Students who live in the area or in the dorms should remember that the Warner Park recycling center is only a few blocks from the heart of campus. Items that cannot be recycled on campus like batteries and old computer hardware can be recycled there.
While the statistics on recycling are encouraging, many feel that we could be doing more. Those who make an active effort to recycle seem to agree that people need to be more aware that their actions affect the planet. If one person decides to toss a bottle into a recycling bin instead of into the trash, that one person and that one bottle make a positive difference in and for the community.
For a related story on energy efficiency in Chattanooga, please see Brooke Fontana’s article on the new Carmike theatre.