COVID-19 Causes Recycling Revamp

Student+Audrey+Mader+is+Pictured+Operating+a+tractor+at+the+Recycling+Center

Carlos Wyrick (he/him)/Staff Photographer

Student Audrey Mader is Pictured Operating a tractor at the Recycling Center

The Recycling and Solid Waste Crew at Warren Wilson College has changed the way they manage waste because of COVID-19. It used to be that all the recyclable material from the trash and recycling on campus was sorted by hand. Now trash collecting is outsourced to Harper Commercial Group, so the crew doesn’t break bags and sort waste. 

The crew continues some pre-pandemic tasks: managing the Free Store; collecting compost from Gladfelter and Cowpie Cafe; and collecting cardboard. But because they are no longer sorting, they have gained more time for other projects. 

“I’m trying to focus our efforts on education for the campus and focusing on some special — and in my opinion — more fun projects, like combining art and waste, ” said crew supervisor Megan Davis

The crew is also working on changing the compost permit in order to sell their compost and develop partnerships with the wider community.

Now they are beginning to collect recyclables again. But, they will not be sorting it because they switched from a source-separated system to a co-mingled/single stream system, in which plastic, paper, metal cans, and glass all go into one dumpster. 

“A lot of people just see us driving around in trucks full of trash,” said Cora Wingate, a sophomore double majoring in art and global studies who works on the Recycling Crew. 

Wingate said she really enjoys being on the crew. 

“I like almost every part about it, even the parts that might usually be gross … stinky stuff like compost,” Wingate said. “The crew works really well together. We’ve got a lot of people that see the bigger picture and really know the importance of the work we’re doing.”

One of the biggest parts of getting the campus community to recycle is awareness. 

Evan Woody, a junior double majoring in psychology and music, was on Recycling Crew freshman year, but is now on Auto Shop Crew.

When he first came to Warren Wilson, Woody did not know anything about the recycling system, and only learned about it from his time on the crew. He explained that for some students it can be easier not to think about where their waste is going, and if a person is in a hurry they might not take the time to put their waste in the right bin. 

“Someone’s not going to do something if they don’t know to do it,” Woody said. “As a whole, our community could be more informed about [it].”

Davis wants students to know that they can make a difference.  

“I want everyone to feel empowered and to know that they have the direct ability to impact the waste stream,” Davis said. “If we are all doing our part and making small changes collectively, we will reduce our waste on campus.”