While Recycling in America Struggles, Dordt Finds More Sustainable Solutions

Gretchen Lee — Staff Writer

As a Christian university that believes in being good stewards of God’s creation, what is Dordt doing to fight the recycling issues America is facing?

According to the World Trade Organization, China issued a statement in 2017 that they would no longer be accepting plastic and paper scraps of any kind. Being the largest importer of U.S. recyclables, China’s decision has put the United States in a position where its recycling centers are no longer able to keep up with the amount of recyclable waste produced. As a result, much of the plastics put into recycling bins are dumped into landfills.

Recycling Bin_PCGretchen Lee_For Recycling Article

While recycling in America has become more difficult, Dordt is working to cut down on waste.

Howard Wilson, Dordt’s vice president and chief administrative officer, said the current goal is to reduce the amount of recyclable waste by providing students with more sustainable options around campus. In the commons, reusable boxes are available for takeout food, water-bottle refilling stations are available in various places, and the recycling bins in the Grille are made of recycled milk jugs that can be used for years to come.

“We encourage people to be cooperative,” Wilson said. “We are happy to cooperate with students on recycling, but we expect them to take initiative themselves.”

Some of the students taking initiative on campus are members of the Sustainability Club, which is co-chaired by seniors Ellie Jasper and Anna Vekony.

“[The recycling situation] puts responsibility on us as Americans to find solutions for our own plastic,” Jasper said. “We need to harness our creativity.”

The Sustainability Club has recently spent time discussing how Dordt can continue its steps towards reducing waste. Some of their ideas include working to eliminate plastic at the commons and grille, providing bamboo-made cutlery or creating initiatives for students to bring their own reusable silverware, and providing discounts for students who bring their own containers to the Grille. All these ideas are still in development, but they hope to put more research into them in the near future.

Jasper and Vekony also encourage students to use less glass and repurpose the glass they do use. If  students wish to recycle glass, Sioux Center’s website advises residents to drop glass items off directly at Brommer Sanitation, which is contracted by the city for garbage and recycling pick-up services.

Dr. Joel Sikkema, the director of the pro-tech program, agrees with the encouragement to use less glass, saying that it creates more environmental damage due to the amount of energy it takes to melt and transport the heavy material to places that process glass.

Sikkema encourages students to look at the waste hierarchy pyramid, which lays out the options of what to do with waste. It lists options (prevention, reuse, repurpose, recycling, recovery, and disposal), in order by which they should be considered. At the top, “prevention” and “reduce” encourages people to cut back on waste creation. Recycling is the fourth of six options.

“Recycling has become our go-to solution,” Sikkema said. “In reality, we have several things we should be doing before we get to that.”

Like the Sustainability Club, Sikkema sees the new recycling challenge as an opportunity to creatively reevaluate how to take responsibility for our waste and cut down on how much we produce.

“Ultimately,” Sikkema said, “we need to ask, ‘What is best for God’s creation?’”

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