What Goes Around Comes Around: Mary Baldwin’s Green Spin on Recycling

January 25, 2011

It’s garbage day, and you’ve dutifully separated your waste into the usual piles: recycled plastic, glass, newspapers, aluminum. Still, there’s the trash bin, stuffed full of everything else. Many people have a very clear idea of what “recyclable” looks like, and many products are helpfully marked with the symbol of three arrows in perpetual triangular circulation. The meaning is clear — once used, recyclable products can be reused almost infinitely. But what of the non-recyclables? Do they, too, have purpose, or are they fated for the landfill, never to be used again?

TerraCycle Logo

That’s where TerraCycle comes in. On the Mary Baldwin campus, it is proving to be a force to be reckoned with.

A small, up-and-coming company founded in 2001, TerraCycle makes use of products that are often challenging to recycle. From ink cartridges to digital cameras, Scotch Tape to candy wrappers, TerraCycle’s eco-friendly approach takes several of these products to create items like all-purpose cleaners (made from soda bottles), bike pouches (made from energy bar wrappers), and backpacks (made from cookie wrappers). It is a creative approach that is environmentally friendly, efficient, and economical, shrinking the amount of trash sent into landfills in a way that has people paying attention.

Green Team coordinator Aimee Sanford ’11 explains that TerraCycle’s process of reusing products, called “upcycling,” enlists brigades for various requested items, which, in Sanford’s words, encourages “people and groups from all over the country to sign up for these brigades and send in specific items that TerraCycle uses to make its products.”

Items such as Scotch Tape dispensers and empty Aveeno containers, cereal bags, and Colgate packaging can all be collected and discarded in the TerraCycle cardboard bin located in the Nuthouse. TerraCycle is brand specific, so participants are urged to note what products are accepted. For instance, the company has provided containers to be used specifically for Nabisco brand wrappers; those bins are located on the bottom floor of Pearce Science Center, Hunt Dining Hall foyer, the first floor of the Physical Activities Center, and Tullidge and King residence halls, Sanford said.

Every member of the Mary Baldwin community can help the Green Team’s efforts by leaving items in bins instead of the waste basket. Certain brigades require a minimum amount of items for shipment within a given timeframe (Sanford estimates six months). If not received in time, brigades are considered inactive and dropped from the TerraCycle movement. Sanford encourages faculty and students to “spread the word to your friends, classmates, and coworkers” to raise greater awareness about TerraCycle. In the meantime, take a second before tossing your bag of Doritos into the trash — saving and upcycling may benefit the economy much more than you realize.

Mary Baldwin Green Makes Sense of Campus Recycling

Wondering what you can recycle, and what belongs in the trash? Mary Baldwin Green is here to make those decisions much easier. A quick visit to the webpage, located conveniently on the Spencer Center website, reveals a comprehensive list of recyclables, which includes numerous types of plastics, cardboards, cans, books, and even appliances capable of reducing Mary Baldwin’s carbon footprint.

Organizations involved with green initiatives such as Apple Corps and Mary Baldwin’s own Dining Services are highlighted on Mary Baldwin Green. Students are encouraged to visit the site in order to discover the list of products that can be recycled as well as recycling locations.

Spencer Center staffer Robyn Stegman ’09 reminds students, faculty, and staff that Recyclemania begins February 6 and runs through April 2 with events that educate the community on what’s being thrown away that can be recycled.