By Macy Santicola, Editor
In 2017, China passed a policy banning the import of plastic waste. The ban began at the start of 2018, and its effect was felt all over the United States.
According to an article by NPR, the US sent out 26.7 million tons between 1988 and 2016. West Liberty University was also impacted by this ban. According to Assistant Professor of Geography Aron Massey, the recycling facility that WLU uses was originally unaffected.
“We were pretty lucky because the facility that our recycling goes to up in Neville Island still can send their stuff to China. In the fall semester we were still confident that our stuff was going where it was supposed to be going and getting recycled which a lot of people around the country couldn’t say,” Massey said.
One part of China’s restrictions was that what recyclables they did take could not be contained in plastic bags which is what WLU uses in the recycling bins that were all over campus. “Any time we were sending recyclables in the bag it was counted as contaminated,” said Massey, “So what we had to do was unbag it or not recycle.” At the time, WLU didn’t have the ability to maintain recycling without the use of the plastic bags, so in December WLU staff, faculty, and students received an email stating that the recycling program had been put on hold.
Massey, also apart of West Liberty University’s Sustainability Committee, said that an agreement was reached at the end of the fall semester that would allow the recycling program to slowly return to campus. “Instead of doing recycling bins in every classroom, we’d just have them in the hallways,” said Massey. This change would allow WFF’s custodial crew enough time to unbag the recycling at the dumpster.
Currently, the program is still on pause as the Sustainability Committee tests out the new system.
Massey suggested that students, faculty, and staff should consider reducing their plastic waste even once the recycling program returns at full speed as the market for plastic is still limited. Before recycling at any dumpster, make sure to check that none of the items being recycled are restricted by the facility as they can lead to the entire dumpster contents being labeled as contaminated. The Sustainability Committee can be followed on Facebook and Twitter.
Photo Credit: Macy Santicola