Expanded recycling still out of reach for some residents

For residents of many student housing complexes, recycling can be a headache.
Photo Illustration.

Sustainability can be difficult for residents in student apartment complexes, despite Columbia having increased its recycling programs.

Columbia has expanded its ability to process plastics, making it even easier to recycle, said Layli Terrill, a waste minimization supervisor for the City of Columbia. Though there are a few caveats — plastic film and styrofoam will not be accepted — Terrill said the new rules should make it simpler for residents to recycle.

“We hope to increase all of the plastics that we recycle,” Terrill said. “That’s what residents of Columbia wanted to do, and so we added that in.”

But for residents of many student housing complexes, finding a reliable way to recycle can be difficult. Nine complexes have rotating bins provided by the city, but residents in other apartments must transport their recycling to a drop-off point.

At Campus View, the city provides a bin that sits in the parking lot Friday through Sunday and then rotates to other housing complexes during the weekdays.

Kate Ryan, an environmental ambassador for Campus View, said the system is not ideal. Campus View is planning to revamp its recycling program by putting a bin on each floor of the housing complex and having maintenance collect the bins at the end of the week.

Ryan still has little patience with residents who don’t make the extra effort to recycle. She sees a lot of recyclable objects that are thrown away.

“A lot of people care more about convenience than sustainability. It’s laziness more than anything else,” she said. “I’m from Kansas City, and I used to collect all of my four and seven plastics and drive them home with me so I could recycle them. I understand why people don’t recycle, but I think a little inconvenience is worth it.”

Under Columbia’s new rules, plastic drinking cups, empty prescription bottles and containers such as yogurt cups can now be recycled. However, grocery bags, plastic straws, plastic drink cup lids and plastic film cannot be.

For the items that can’t be recycled by the city, Hy-Vee has recycling bins and takes the plastics to a location outside the city that can process the materials.

MU’s Environmental Leadership Office coordinates with the Sustainability Office and the city to educate students and promote sustainability.

“Recycling is easy to do, especially with the city’s new rules,” said Amy Eultgen, an advisor for the Environmental Leadership Office. “I also encourage people to reduce and reuse what they can and be mindful of ways that they can recycle and limit their consumption.”

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