Recycling on campus: ins and outs


Recycle seems to get the most press from the old adage of “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,” but experts say recycling should be the last line of defense in lowering our carbon footprint. 

That’s not to say recycling isn’t an important responsibility in the famous “R” trio, but reducing waste by not creating it in the first place and reusing what we already have, is a much more effective place to start.

Reduce means to buy or use less. By reducing our consumption, there is simply less to recycle. A common example of this is a reusable water bottle. A quality reusable water bottle is about $10 and will pay for itself in a matter of days. This reduces spending and reduces recycling. 

Another easy way to reduce is to refuse shopping bags at the checkout. When buying only one or two items, a bag is not necessary, or alternatively bring reusable shopping bags to the store. Reusable bags can be purchased, or better yet, old shopping bags from previous shopping trips can be used.

Reuse goes hand in hand with reduce. By the simple act of reusing, the pollution caused by harvesting raw materials to make new items is reduced as well as the amount of waste that needs to be recycled or sent to the landfill.

Reusing could be as simple as having clothes mended or tailored instead of buying new clothes or donating gently used household and personal items to charities who will resell them.

Another example is to repair broken appliances instead of purchasing new ones. Newer is not always better.

Finally, upcycling (the process of reusing discarded material to create a product of higher value) and trash art or trashion (the process of turning trash into art or fashion) have grown in popularity. Consider donating items to artists and support the movement by purchasing upcycled items.

Recycling is the third, final and important step in the “R’s.” Even though we reduce and reuse, some waste in today’s culture is unavoidable. That is why recycling is so important. Here on campus, all recyclable materials placed in the green lidded bins are picked up by Brookings Dumpster then hauled down to Millennium Recycling, Inc. in Sioux Falls. Here the materials are sorted and baled and then shipped off to companies who use the recycled material for their products.

It is important to understand what can be recycled. The SDSU GreenState website has fantastic information on where and what you can and cannot recycle on campus. Did you know that bubble wrap, saran and plastic wrap, plastic film, tin foil and aerosol cans (as long as they are empty) can be recycled in the green rimmed bins all around campus? 

And as long as glass and plastic containers are empty, they don’t have to be perfectly clean to be recycled! Of course, the cleaner the better.

To find out more tips on recycling on campus, visit


 Kirsten Schroeder is a BOR HR Generalist II at SDSU and can be reached at [email protected]