If you were carrying an empty can on Middle Path, how far out of your way would you go to recycle it, if at all?
The answer, usually, is not far. Often, when walking on Middle Path on weekend mornings, one can see a lone beer can or bottle on a lawn. The student body’s propensity for littering calls for more sustainable waste management along Middle Path, as well as around the campus more generally.
Perhaps the choice to go out of your way for recycling does not even need to exist. The Office of Green Initiatives has proposed placing recycling bins on Middle Path in the past but received pushback from other administrators who have strong feelings towards altering the Middle Path aesthetic. They have also proposed adding trash bins to the Middle Path patio and around the North Campus Apartments (NCAs) next year. But if new recycling bins were added, the Office of Green Initiatives is required to match the black trash cans that are currently on Middle Path. Further, the addition would be costly. Each bin would cost over a thousand dollars and would require labor. Without being able to alter the bins’ color, it would make them difficult to distinguish from regular trash bins and thus ineffective.
The Office of Green Initiatives has already done a great job making recycling more convenient for students by putting recycling bins in students’ rooms and replacing more waste exclusive containers with bins separating waste from recycling. It’s easy to recycle when it is not inconvenient to do so. They should further the effort with a recycling bin to complement the existing trash bins.
I’m not saying that those who throw beer bottles on the lawn would suddenly recycle if there were more recycling bins; they wouldn’t. However, with more waste bins around the NCAs, littering will occur less in that area. But this points to the initial problem of the lack of exterior recycling containers. Many who don’t litter but instead throw recyclables in the trash while walking from their residence halls to class would recycle those items if it was as convenient. To a certain extent, even the biggest tree-huggers among us would reach a limit before they opt to just throw a recyclable into the trash.
Those who mudslide on Middle Path daily should not have to make a choice of whether or not they’ll go out of their way to recycle. I personally don’t think adding green recycling bins of the same type to Middle Path wouldn’t damage the aesthetic. I also think that adding the same black bins with only a recycling decal on the top would lead to more contamination of recycling bins.
Since I toured Kenyon, Middle Path has changed a lot: it has lost its older, North Campus trees. The College has replaced the benches, gotten rid of the Christmas lights in the downtown section and reshaped the downtown Gambier section of Middle Path entirely. It’s hard to argue that adding recycling bins now would be uncouth with recent updates.
For now, individuals walking on Middle Path will have to carry their recyclables while outside, and next year it will be more convenient for students walking around the NCAs, but hopefully soon students won’t have to make a choice between convenience and recycling.
Jas Spearman ’18 is a film major from Round Pond, Maine. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.