Do We Need a Change?

By:  James Swagel

     I remember my first semester here at the University of South Carolina and the dark halls of the Bates House Residence Hall.  Many a party was concluded with an idea for what to do with the endless piles of cans that had congregated on the floor.  One idea, I remember, was to wall someone into his room and another was to see how many we could stand on end without toppling.  But, we usually just ended up throwing them in the trashcans in our refuse room.  Sometimes out of the five trashcans in the room set aside for trash disposal, three or four would be completely filled with hundreds of cans of various beverages.  Upon further contemplation, I can also remember the small, blue bucket that was thrown haphazardly on my bed that first day.  Even though it was quite clear that this basket was for the purpose of recycling, because of the triple arrow symbol that was so prominently placed on the front, I perceived it as a great trash can, since I had forgotten to bring one.  Over the course of that semester it is hard to say just how many cans I threw out or saw inadvertently strewn around the parking lot like a million glittering coins in the afternoon sunshine.  However, one thing I can say is that with the proper methods the University could inspire students like me to help keep clean the environment as well as make the money back that is needed to keep the project successful.  The University should reconsider the methods by which its current recycling program can be improved.  With the proper improvements the University can increase student awareness about the problems with pollution, increase the amount of income that is reimbursed through the system, and keep its impact on the overall environment of the campus--indeed the city--to a minimum.

     The current system for recycling that the University has is fine for something as outdated as the music of the Eighties.  The truth is, however, that with the amount of money the University spends on other endeavors, it cannot afford not to update its
recycling campaign.  The only way to do that is to help make recycling appeal to more of the vast student population that currently attends our University.  How might this be done?  The University already places a recycling bin in every dorm room around the campus; anything more would exceed the current funding for the recycling project.  Perhaps the institution of a recycling center at the Russell House could cause the impulse to become a habit.  But, that would take too much money--with the salaries of workers and the annexing of what would amount to a new wing of the building--to consider for too long.  Another solution could be to have the students elect a "recycling committee" to evaluate the problem and decide on the appropriate solution.  However, I feel that with the current lull in our recycling campaign, even that would be ineffective.  As an altrenative to these two solutions I propose that we, as students and faculty united, institute a plan that is so simple it is already in place in many of the high schools around the state.  I propose a system of rewards.

     How many of us have walked past the Russell House only to hear the cry, "Free T-shirt for your application?"   The interested people walk to the table where a fraternity brother greets them and says that it will take no time and they'll even get something free out of it.  Who can resist?  And so I say to you, who can resist a plan that will not only take no time but those who respond may get something free out of it?  What is this plan?  Simple.  My plan is a contest.  It will only be open to those students living in dormitories.  First, a communal and easily accessible recycling bin must be placed on each floor (and on each wing where applicable).  Next, the student government must place flyers and handouts in the dormitories and around the campus to advertise that the dormitory that has the highest turn out of recyclable products by exam week would earn some sort of award.  The award could be anything from a pizza party sponsored by the Student Government to a cash award for the students living in that dormitory.  What student doesn't want something for free?  As long as the bins are easily accessible and the award is accommodating, turnout will be high.  Who knows--in future years this project could turn into a campus wide race to equal that of the Carolina vs. Clemson blood drive, or may influence other institutions on how to help not only the natural environment but also the social environment of the students. 

     Opposition to this idea would hold fast to the idea that the Unviersity does not have the money to start any new projects, much less to sponsor any awards for an entire dormitory.  Yet, I still believe that the money made will far outweigh what is spent.  There are very few costs for the University to directly pay to commence this project.  Indeed, the highest cost will be for the workers that will be needed to collect the bins from the dormitories.  However, the responsibility to take the bins from the dormitories and empty them into a predisposed location could be placed on the government of each dormitory.  An hourly rate of seven dollars would suffice for many workers.  Because there are many students who have been offered work-study opportunities throughout the University, their salary would already be figured into another budget.  So, ultimately this job could be given to the students as well.  One student worker will be needed for each dormitory to transport the materials to the recycling center.  By bypassing the city collection of recyclable materials, the University can directly acquire the money earned from the recycling center.  The average rate is ten cents per pound of aluminum in Richland County, and it is estimated that each dormitory will collect at least 100 pounds of aluminum cans every day.  That comes to ten dollars per day, seventy dollars per week, or about $1,120 dollars per dormitory per semester.  When taking in just how many dormitories there are, that would mean almost an extra $20,000 for the University.  Even if the output is below expected and only fifty pounds are collected from each dormitory per day, the University is still looking at $10,000.  This sum would cover the minimal cost of gas for the trucks (since the University already has the trucks available), salary for the workers, and the award for the dormitory, as well as that of the minimal cost of promotion.  The rest will go diretly into the University's account.

     Some people will say that just because they are offered something for free does not mean that they will eagerly contribute or contribute at all, and I concede that fact.  That is why it is a necessity for the recycling bins of each hall to be kept in an easily accessible area, as well as be kept as empty and as clean as possible.  If the collection areas are well known and easily accessible, such as in the study areas of each hall, the idea will appeal to many more people than if the bins are only placed on the ground level.  Even though some people may not contribute very much or at all, the number of students who jump on the idea to have a free party or other rewarding prize will make the number of dissenters obsolete.

     This is my plan for the continued and, ultimately, future success of the recycling program here at USC.  As a freshman, I jump on every opportunity to get something free that I come across, and if it were as easy as throwing the can down my hall as opposed to on my floor I would be all for it.  Who can deny that my fellow freshmen to not feel the same?  The long lines at the numerous tables in front of Russell House serve as an example that when offered a free carrot, a smart bunny cannot decline.

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