The art of knowing food doesn’t go in the recycling bin
Having worked in facilities management as a student custodian for roughly a year and a half, I’ve picked up, changed, and disposed of more trash, recycling and compost bags than I could ever count. It’s not as bad of a job as it will probably sound to those who’ve never done it.
At the end of the day a person should learn to handle smells that aren’t lavender or mint whether or not you take out trash.
The worst part in all honesty isn’t the bags of day old food or sticky old soda, it’s that this job intensely reveals to those that do it just how often people put things in the wrong bin.
Now we can all agree that accidents happen. A piece of paper in the trash or a tissue getting lost in paperwork and ending up in recycling, which by the way I find on a daily basis, isn’t the end of the world or the work day.
However, and it’s a big however folks, the job of a custodian reveals that people frequently put an immense amount of things in bins that they obviously don’t belong in.
We’re not talking some notebook paper frills in the trash. We’re talking four or five people’s worth of pizza in a blue recycling bag. We’re talking at least one dressing-drenched salad in clear recycling bags made from recyclable materials so that they can be used with recyclables on a repeated basis.
It’s situations like this that reflect the bigger problem with incorrect disposal in places such as UMD. It’s a problem that a sign explaining what’s compostable can’t fix. It’s a problem revolving around the fact that many people simply do not care. A lack of understanding on how compost works simply can’t explain how someone can think pizza is recyclable, because they probably know it’s not. They just don’t care.
That lack of interest doesn’t just potentially affect the environment. It affects custodians who have to determine if a recycling bag is contaminated because yes, if you put a bunch of food in a bag otherwise full of recyclable goods like paper, it does ruin the entire bag.
It affects the school which can be charged if they are found to incorrectly dispose of goods. Guess who’s money gets used for that.
Chances are you probably know someone who’s been participating in this, because the raw consistency of the misuse reflects that quite a few people are doing it. If you see it happen, call them out. Call them out because we’re all better, dare I say smarter, than this.
We’re going to college to expand our understanding of everything from music to robotics. If you can’t wrap your head around the basics of disposal, how it affects others, or how to get your friend who isn’t taking it seriously on track, I have some strong doubts about what you’ll achieve in those fields.
So we’ve learned a few key points here. Stop putting pizza and salad in the recycling bin. If you’re reading this you’re probably 18 or older. That’s a good 14 to 16 more years than it should have taken you to get the difference between a blue, black/brown, and green lid. Make life easier for facilities employees, make your bank account a little less empty, and hey, you can sound smarter than your friends.