Recycling at Dordt: Reuse or abuse?

Josh Bootsma- Guest Writer

“It doesn’t matter anyway,” said a Dordt student in a focus group weeks ago, receiving nods of agreement from those around him. “Even if we do recycle, Dordt is just going to throw it all in the trash. So why should we even bother?” The opinion of many students at Dordt College is that recycling does not matter because all types of materials get thrown into the trash, regardless of whether or not they are recyclable. Upon closer examination, however, the reality is far different from students’ perceptions.

There are three main parties involved when it comes to recycling at Dordt: Brommer Sanitation (the company that collects Dordt’s waste), Dordt employees who collect recycling, and Dordt students.

The man who picks up Dordt’s (and the rest of Sioux Center’s) recycling is Rob Harrison. On Tuesday afternoons, he visits all the large recycling bins around campus and empties them into his truck. When asked if he thought Dordt recycled well, Harrison said that Dordt “didn’t do that bad of a job,” despite his admission that he occasionally needs to make a second trip to Dordt to pick up all the garbage that has been placed in the recycling bins. Harrison explained that there will sometimes be a bag of trash that has leaked out onto other (recyclable) materials, or other times glass bottles in recycling bags. In these instances, Harrison is forced to throw these bags in the trash, despite the fact that much of their contents are recyclable.

These kind of problems are what Dordt Physical Plant Director Stan Oordt is worried about when it comes to recycling. Oordt explained how Dordt is intentional about recycling: placing special bins in every dorm room and apartment, placing large green recycling containers in convenient locations around campus, and placing a handful of specialized containers for white paper and cardboard. Oordt believes the negligence of Dordt students is the cause of most recycling problems at Dordt. “When one student puts a bag of oil in the recycling container,” he says, “it can contaminate the whole thing.”

In defense of Dordt taking recycling seriously, Oordt explained that both Lyle Vanden Berg and Robert Mulder, men involved with maintenance in the Campus Center, go through the contents of the recycling bin behind the Campus Center and dump the entire container on the ground. Sorting through, they pull out the materials that belong in the trash and return the truly recyclable materials to the recycling bin. “They do it every week; they’re very serious about it,” said Oordt.

Granted, there are few recycling containers currently available in the Grille area. But Vanden Berg says that when there were more in the past, students “used them as garbage cans.” He went on: “We tried it before and it did not work. That’s why we only have one recycling container there.”

Junior Josh Heynen is one of the few Dordt students aware of this problem. The Sustainability Committee-member agrees with both Harrison and Oordt that the biggest responsibility for proper recycling falls on students. According to Heynen, the Sustainability Committee is working on placing special recycling containers in areas like the Grille. These containers would have separate compartments for various recyclable materials. If properly used, the Sustainability Committee hopes that these special containers would save Dordt significant money on trash costs, thereby opening up funds for an AMOR group going to Liberia this December to build solar panels for those in need.

It seems clear that of the three parties involved in recycling at Dordt, the fault lies neither with Dordt maintenance nor with Brommer Sanitation, but with students. Students have a lack of education about what is recyclable and what is not, as well as an apathy toward intentional recycling. Whether it is by using special containers, being more intentional about recycling education, or simply making students aware of the impact that recycling (or lack thereof) can have, perhaps students should give the idea of recycling some more thought before they throw it in the trash.

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