Your Blue Bin: WM’s Got it Sorted

Waste Management is SMU’s new recycling service, and they came to campus to let us know what’s up. The following is a summary of what E-Reps Jewel Lipps, Nick Saulnier, and Gwen Carris learned.

Recycling, as simple as it gets for SMU


* all kinds of paper and cardboard
* all plastics with a number
* aluminum and tin cans


* food
* glass
* styrofoam or foam cups
* pizza boxes
* coffee cups

Clear bag=recycle
Black bag=landfill

That’s it. That’s really the gist of it. Not so hard, right? We could totally take on a little more. So how about this?

At Hughes Trigg, when we go to check our mailbox, we can drop off for recycling

* ink cartridges and toner
* pens and markers
* cell phones

Also, facilities will pick up other recyclables like printer cartridges, electronics, metals, and lightbulbs. Just send in a work order!

Single stream recycling can accept about 10% contamination. If it’s not wet, you’re set!
What’s a problem: leaving cardboard out in the rain
What’s not a problem: drops of soda or water or yogurt
Clear bags let the workers glance in and make sure we’re not trying to recycle a bag full of banana peels. A misplaced glass bottle isn’t gonna make them put the whole bag in the trash, Waste Management will just sort it out later.

According to Keith Gardner, our facilities director, the biggest problem area on campus is Hughes Trigg. We’re putting our waxy coffee cups and waxy drink cups and greasy pizza boxes and greasy chic-fila boxes in the blue bin. That’s where bottles and cans should go, y’all.

If you want to be a recycling guru, here’s a little FAQ

1. Styrofoam or foam cups? NO. They’ll sort it out and send it to a landfill. It’s a waste of time and money to recycle it. Best thing to do is bring your own mug or cup.

2. What about liquid in containers? Do things need to be rinsed? Liquid is not a big deal! Please pour liquid out, but those little left over drops of soda, juice, or water don’t matter.

3. Do we need to remove caps? No. Both cap and bottle are recyclable.

4. What about metals besides aluminum? Not at this facility, but it doesn’t really matter. The wrong kinds of metals can be easily sorted out and sent to a landfill. If its a metal can and you’re not sure of the difference between aluminum, steel, tin, etc., go ahead and recycle it.

5. What about different kinds of paper? Yes! Newspaper, printer paper, colored paper, lined paper, glossy paper, cardboard paper, yes yes yes to paper. One caveat- coffee cups are a no-no.

6. What about yogurt cups? Sure! Not a big deal, they can totally handle yogurt stuck to plastic. If you don’t finish, dump it out in the trash and recycle the container.

The moral of the story- recycling is necessary. Waste Management is courteously making it as easy for us as possible. Do them a favor and learn a little about how to keep it it sorted.

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Why Not?

By CM E-Rep Emily Steinke

I think we can all agree recycling is pretty important. It’s such a simple thing, and an easy way to take care of our environment. The other day, as I dumped my tray in the mall food court trash, I noticed the lack of items in the blue bin and a heaping amount of items in the black bin. I then looked through the trash bin only to find plenty of things that could have been recycled. This confused me. Why don’t these people just recycle, and how can I encourage them to? After a bit of research I came up with five reasons people don’t recycle.

The first reason I found was that recycling was inconvenient. In small areas such as my hometown in Iowa recycling is very inconvenient in the sense that we don’t have curbside recycling programs. Also hauling multiple sticky bags to the local recycling center, which is probably at least twenty minutes away, is just not something you enjoy doing on your day off. So if a city or area isn’t set up to make recycling easy, it’s just not convenient.

Another reason others give for not recycling is their lack of space. People don’t want “garbage” lying around their kitchen, and if there’s no room for another trash can in the pantry or drawer it just gets in the way. Also multiple bins to divide up the separate recyclables just add to the clutter. Also if recycling isn’t convenient there has to be a spot in the house to store bags of recyclables until that person can make it to the redemption center.

Now all the work to separate, store, and transport the recyclables is just not worth it sometimes when certain states don’t offer deposits. Why spend the time when you don’t get a little incentive for your work. You don’t see much of an environmental result and you don’t get reimbursed for your trash bags. This leads into another reason to not recycle. It doesn’t seem as if one person can make a difference. Why put in all that work when some loser is going to null and void all you work by not recycling?

Last but not least recycling isn’t done because it’s so hard! Sorting, knowing what’s recyclable and what’s not, and knowing what’s what confuse people. This along with the other reasons I stated above prevents people from recycling. Yet there is hope. Continue reading for a few reasons why you should put in that effort.
Recycling saves energy. Manufacturers don’t have to make products from raw materials therefore cutting down energy consumption and production costs. Recycling reduces landfills, saves animal habitats, and paper recycling alone saves thousands of oxygen producing trees! It preserves our resources, and protects our wildlife. The more you recycle and demand recyclable products, the more they will be produced! By recycling you make it easier on the economy. Recycling uses less water and energy and pollution is reduced. Last but not least it lessens the amount of greenhouse gas emissions limiting global warming.

Now look back at the common reasons I gave for the lack of recycling. Reread the reasons I gave for recycling. Which one do you think states the stronger argument? That’s what I thought. Use that blue bin y’all!

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A Look Into the (Possible) Future

Here, recycling and conservation is often seen as a “bunch of green people” and many don’t realize the major importance of these measures. While my family always practiced these behaviors out of habit, I didn’t quite understand the importance of recycling and conserving water and electricity concepts that were always thrown at me. The major impact of waste hit me during one of my visits to my hometown in China.

Outside, litter was scattered along the edges of the streets and sidewalks. There were also people that dug plastic bottles out of trash cans for survival. (In China, you can sell them back for about 5 cents apiece) At many street shops, there’s a small discount for drinks sold in glass bottles if you leave the bottles when you finish – or an extra charge if you take the bottle away. In addition, there were no clouds nor blue skies.

Inside, I noticed that all my cousin’s textbooks were paperback, and most were hardly larger than the size of a novel, although the page size was slightly larger than that of a novel. In addition, the quality of paper was lower – thinner – in both books and other items, such as tissues. They didn’t use the air conditioning unless it was needed.

Usually windows were simply left open. Old cloths and clothes were used as rags. Everything was used and reused.

One day, I was outside with my grandmother, and there was a leak in a hose with the water was running onto the street. My grandmother said, “That’s such a waste of water. So many people could drink that.”

It was then that I realized that this is what we in the United States might face someday. Right now, we only see our water and energy bills when looking at usage, but not at the effects on our environment.

We are fortunate not to have to deal with more dire circumstances right now, but if we don’t start taking more care in how we use our natural resources, we will end up in similar circumstances to those I had seen in China – pollution, overall quality decrease, and possibly greater costs for our enjoyment. We may even lose what we have always taken for granted – white clouds and blue skies.

Lucy Yu

(Smith & Perkins E-Rep for Fall 2012)

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Green Resolution

What fills up faster- the trash can or recycling bin?

The correct answer is trash can, because that’s just the way our society works right now. We need quick and convenient in our everyday lives. (If in all honesty you recycle more items than you throw away, you are a sustainability superhero and deserve a hug.)

Think about fast food restaurants for a moment. That’s an entire industry serving our need for nourishment on the go. Many people take the food out, so it’s packaged in disposable paper bags and cups. Even if you don’t take it out, you’re eating pretty fast, and the establishment saves more time by not washing dishes. Your food is soon gone to your stomach and the wrappers/cups soon gone to the trash. Disregarding that most fast food places don’t collect recyclables anyway, recycling facilities don’t usually take waxy paper cups and foam cups because those items are too tricky to process profitably.


Most people will just shrug that off and wait for someone somewhere to figure something out. Throwing it all in the trash puts the waste out of sight and out of mind. But after seeing lovely parks and forests littered with foam cups, and a few pictures like this from Hawaii.

I have decided I don’t want to wait for municipalities and business to figure out how to solve this. I am within complete power to address what I consider a serious problem, and I am fully capable of starting now.

So, as of January 1st, 2013, I am resolving to never use a single-use disposable cup. 

You may get what I’m saying right off the bat and think I’m crazy. Or you may be confused. So, to put it plainly, I essentially cannot have Sonic drinks anymore, because Sonic drinks come in a single-use disposable cup. If I forget to bring my travel mug to Starbucks or Cafe 100 or even Umph, I cannot have coffee. If I go to a hall program and forget my reusable cup, I cannot have anything to drink. If I go to any fast food restaurant and am told I cannot use my own cup, I will have to walk out or not have anything to drink.

In 2013, I will either be thirsty all the time, or become a sustainability superhero.

I’ve already got a few sidekicks that’ll tag along in my backpack. I think I’ll have a successful mission.

By VS E-Rep, Jewel Lipps

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Sustainability for the i-Generation

By Morrison-McGinnis E-Rep Quyen Tong

As smartphone capabilities increase, smartphone users are realizing that their smartphones are not only serviceable for phone calls and texting, but also sufficient for a multitude of functions. One function, for example, is the camera. Now that smartphones have resolution as good as digital cameras, users are ditching their digital camera and just using the cameras on their phones. People are also replacing their GPS and video recorder with their phones. This convergence of multiple devices into one is not only extremely convenient and economical, but also sustainable. By using your phone as an all-in-one device, you are not using the batteries or energy that it would take to operate all those other gadgets (camera, GPS, etc.); rather you are just using the power to charge your phone (which you are going to do anyways). By doing this, you REDUCE your consumption of batteries and electricity, thus, living more sustainably. As technology evolves, we have more opportunities to incorporate sustainability into our everyday lives in new and creative ways. Your smartphone can do so many cool things. Take advantage of that and help out the planet along the way. Browse the Android Market or App Store to see what kind of applications you can in lieu of another gadget.

Tips for longer lasting phone battery
(less charging…saves energy)

  • Avoid using moving or animating pictures or videos as your background.
  • Use black background as much as possible. Your phone screen uses a lot less power displaying black instead of white. When web browsing, use, which displays a black Google background.
  • Turn the brightness of the display to the lowest setting possible.
  • Turn off Bluetooth and WiFi when not using.
  • Turn off vibration using just the ring tone.


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Lights Out Cookout

Shuttles Hall E-Rep Jingjing Yang reviews the event and invites you to our spring programs:

What better ways to conserve energy than switching off the lights and unplugging electrical appliances? SMU residents learned it the fun way.

On a pleasant Sunday afternoon, October 21st 2012, the Environmental Representatives (E-Reps) organized a cookout for residents living on campus.

To gain admission to the two-hour outdoor event, residents simply had to switch off the lights and unplug electrical appliances in their room, and bring with them to the South Quad lawn any recyclable item, such as cereal boxes, aluminum cans, newspapers, just to name a few.

Drinks, salad, hotdogs and burgers were served on decomposable plates, as well as with biodegradable utensils and cups. There were several bins on site, one for decomposable items (which were later brought to a designated recycling plant for treatment), one for recyclable objects, as well as one for non-recyclable/non-decomposable waste. SMU residents were informed of how their efforts in sorting their thrash into different bins could help make SMU a more sustainable environment.

Game booths were set up for participants to learn more on topics such as recycling, sustainability and climate change. One of the most popular games allowed residents to place various objects into the recycling bin or the non-recycling bin. Many participants walked away learning that pizza boxes or any containers contaminated with food could not be recycled, which was something they were unaware of.

The event was well received by all participants, as not only had they learned one thing or two about sustainability and were able to walk way with prizes and freebies while they did so, they also had a chance to interact with the E-Reps.

If you missed this amazing cookout, be on the look out for more events put up by the E-Reps, especially in the spring semester. We look forward seeing you!

Go Green, SMU!

By Jingjing Yang

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Pesky Plastics at Mac’s Place

Any environmentally oriented person will tell you that plastic is one of their biggest pet peeves, and for good reason! Most plastic containers and bottles are made up of polyethylene terephthalate or, more commonly known as PET. PET almost never degrades in landfills because only UV rays from the sun can break it down—the normal microbial process does not occur. When PET is exposed to direct sunlight for long periods of time, often as trash floating in the ocean, it releases toxic chemicals (bisphenol A (BPA) and PS oligomer). These toxins are ingested by animals, and subsequently by humans. Once a toxin becomes part of the food chain (especially through a water system) it is very hard to remove. So, conventional plastics are a big problem: they either literally poison the environment or just take up space in landfills where they likely still leak out toxins.

The obvious solution is recycling! As a self-defined environmentally-oriented person, I have been recycling all the plastic I could for most of my life. So, when I came to SMU I followed that pattern for all the plastic in Mac’s place. Just chuck it in the recycling bin, right? Single-stream, easy peasy lemon squeezy. But, guess what? Much of the plastic in Mac’s place is NOT recyclable at SMU! Mac’s place uses #6 plastic for their plastic utensils and plastic salad containers. Plastic #6 is also the infamous Styrofoam. The At SMU, only plastic numbers 1-5 and 7 are recyclable. plastic numbers identify the type of polymer which the plastic is made out of, and therefore, what is needed to melt it down and recycle it. Luckily all the accidental #6’s I carefully rinsed out and put in the recycling bin (with much ceremony and righteous sentiment!) will not interfere with the recycling process because they will be sorted at the plant. However…what a waste of time and energy!

Word to the wise: most yogurt containers, the parfait containers at Mac’s, water bottles, and detergent containers are recyclable (#1’s and #2’s)—basically all the inflexible plastics. What’s NOT recyclable are flimsy plastic bags, most plastic utensils, most clear plastic cups, and waxy paper plates, and Styrofoam- until one of you chemistry majors figures out some way to take care of pesky plastic #6.

by Gwen Carris, McElvaney E-Rep

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Seasonal Sustainability: Autumn!

The season of fall is upon us. For many people, this conjures up pleasant memories and an excitement to make more. There are so many splendid seasonal things to savor in autumn. Football kicks things off, and Thanksgiving is a celebratory feast to accent the season, and throughout there are wonderful treats. I am going to focus on balancing fall traditions with living sustainably.

Sustainability is a lifestyle choice. I do my best to work it into my daily routine as best as I possibly can. When things happen that deviate from my routine, such as a holiday or game day, I do not make as many sustainable choices as I normally would. I get caught up in the festivities and lose sight of the possible consequences of my actions. When I reminisce about those times, my memory is distorted by the sense of tradition and merriment that I associate with fall. This makes it very difficult, for me at least, to view my decisions critically. I am going to do so as a guide so that we can still be green when we are surrounded by shades of yellow and red.

One thing that clouds our judgment about our choices, not only in fall but all year round, is the impact that a seemingly small decision carries.  Buying a few lattes over the course of a week does not seem to burden anyone unless they have a small wastebasket, yet could you imagine how much space a year’s worth of coffee cups for one person could occupy? For me and others, this consumption gets amplified in the fall. The reason is the popular seasonal beverages. Most people will not make the connection that their increased consumption from Starbucks is adversely impacting the environment; they will just enjoy their pumpkin spice latte. One remedy to this is instead of using a new paper cup each time, invest in a reusable container. They are sold in most coffee shops and are just as easy for the baristas as any other cup. This may not seem like a major environmental hazard, but it is an easy way to reduce consumption while consuming a fall treat.

A more substantive challenge is from tailgating and football games. People tend to enjoy more than just sport as they organize large scale outdoor gatherings. There are many factors to being sustainable on game day, and they might be out of your control. One solution is to recycle cans and bottles where possible. If there are not recycling bins, start an effort to make them available. Perhaps the best thing to do is lead by example. Show others your commitment to being sustainable, and some of it should rub off on them.

Striving for sustainability and a better future for both ourselves and the environment we live in is a noble aspiration. You directly impact the environment by the choices you make, whether positively or negatively. Sustainability is not just about actively working, but also about enjoying the harvest in way that is not fraught with waste.

By Michael Wilburn, FAC E-Rep

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One Person’s Trash… by Nick Saulnier

My grandfather, now in his late 80s, grew up on a Texas farm during the Great Depression. He buys plenty of clothes, food, and electronic goods. He is on so many mailing lists that sometimes the postman sets a stack of mail next to his driveway to supplement the mail crammed into his mailbox. He consumes just as much as any other American.

Did I mention he only throws away a gallon Ziploc baggie of trash a week?

This ridiculous fact is not the result of massive storage closets or magic. It’s simply a result of his culture. All of human history until the 1900s was characterized by want. There was simply never enough for everyone; because of this, nothing was ever “trash”. Did your child outgrow his shirt? Pass it on to a relative if it’s in decent condition; use it as a rag if it’s not. Are there vegetable scraps from dinner? Compost them or feed them to the hogs. Historically, Grandpa’s meticulous brand of reusing and recycling is completely normal; it’s our lifestyles that are out of whack.

And the American lifestyle really is out of whack. According to the New Economics Foundation, if everyone in the world consumed at the rate we do, it would take more than five earths to sustain them all. And we might need those earths sooner than you’d think! The American lifestyle of waste seems to be just what developing countries like China and India, which contain more than 8 times as many people as the US, are moving towards.

So what to do? Obviously, the first step is to consume less, something even Grandpa could work on (remember that mailbox). Next, reuse. Get things that are built to last, and when you are done with them, pass them on to others! Finally, recycle. Nowadays, nearly all paper, metals, glass, and plastics can be recycled in big cities; if you’re not sure, check the item for a recycle symbol. Look into composting too! We don’t need to match Grandpa’s ridiculous level of waste minimizing. However, if we can minimize our own levels of consumption and trash, we just might be able to figure out a way for one earth to sustain a first-world way of life for everyone – all 7 billion of us.

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February/March edition of the RLSH E-Newsletter

Here is the February/March edition of the E-Newsletter!

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