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Friday, June 09, 2023 — Houston, TX

University needs to make strides in better outdoor recycling options

By Christina Hughes     10/24/12 7:00pm


I am sure people have their fair share of complaints about the Centennial Picnic and homecoming tailgate (don't get me started about those lines), but there was something else that crushed me about the way these events were handled. I am generally against disposable water bottles, but it was a million degrees at that tailgate, and I'll admit it - I caved. However, amid the waves of heat and alumni, I decided to try a little experiment on Saturday, Oct. 13. I decided to stubbornly hold on to my technically recyclable containers until I could find a recycling bin. After hours of awkwardly bulging pockets and almost a mile of walking, I finally found one: back in my room at Baker College. From this experience, I feel pretty justified in my assumption that most other students got rid of their own bottles and cans that day in one of the overflowing oil-drum garbage cans in and around the stadium or along the Inner Loop. 

This is definitely not the first time this has happened. In fact, at almost every Rice event I have attended where water bottles have been handed out, there were no recycling facilities in sight. What makes these most recent events worse, however, is that they were held to commemorate our Centennial. So much emphasis has been placed on how the university has grown and what enormous strides we've made. So much money and effort went into the last-minute campus facelift. Celebrate Rice: 100 years without public recycling. Isn't anyone else embarrassed? 

Think for a moment about how many disposable water bottles and sodas must have been consumed during the Centennial. All of that could have been recycled, but I am guessing that over half of it is now in a landfill somewhere, poisoning our planet. Parents and alumni cannot be expected to know there are recycling bins outside the Grand Hall in the RMC, if you just walk all the way across the courtyard, go through those double-doors and turn right. 

Although Rice has had some chest-thumping moments in terms of sustainability improvements, outdoor recycling is obviously not one of them. The complete and utter lack of outdoor, public-use recycling bins on our campus is actually ridiculous. I can guarantee there is not a single location to recycle along the entire Inner Loop of campus, except sometimes outside Valhalla. (Four for you Valhalla. You go, Valhalla). So what is the point of having single-stream recycling if people have nowhere to recycle? 

Curious as to the uniqueness of our predicament, I did some basic research on outdoor recycling in the United States. There are many universities and even several cities able to provide accessible, public-use, outdoor recycling bins for their populations. Yet for some reason, our prestigious, private, four-year university has not been able to handle providing the same services for a 300-acre campus in the 25- plus years since recycling services have been offered in Houston. I know students have been hearing about cutbacks and inadequate funding (see Centennial Spectacle) at Rice, but these are recycling bins I'm talking about, not the Turrell Skyspace. 

So, what can we do about the recycling bin problem? I personally do not believe this is something students should have to apply for and use RESET funding for; that should be reserved for new and innovative energy-saving initiatives. Recycling isn't exactly a new concept. Students, though, have influence. 

To be fair, Facilities, Engineering and Planning has previously considered providing Inner Loop recycling receptacles but has always prioritized other purchases. And what about at student events? Did no one really even consider providing recycling bins at the North and South Colleges Block Parties, Centennial Picnic or the homecoming tailgate this past weekend? I am a firm believer that every trash can should have a recycling bin alongside it. Now, I may be writing all of this under the assumption that people live in an age where recycling is a first inclination - that all those water and soda bottles sticking out of the trash bins are because of inadequate recycling facilities, not laziness. That may be overly optimistic, but regardless, should we not be a school that caters to those who care, rather than those who do not? 

Christina Hughes is a Baker College senior. 

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