Yale prides itself on its sustainability. It is, by many accounts, a recycler’s utopia. Yet there is a detail sorely lacking from most Yalies’ recycling education: most plastic items we recycle here are not recyclable outside The Bubble.
It is impressive that Yale invests in the facilities to manage substances like polystyrene and polyvinyl chloride. But this is wildly atypical for Americans. At my home (a suburb of Philadelphia), only polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and high density polyethylene (HDPE) — numbers 1 and 2 if you look on the bottom of your plastic bottle — are recyclable. The same is true in New York, where I will be living next year. Yalies live in an uncommon environment, where nearly everything we touch can be recycled.
Recycling incorrect items incurs extra costs in manpower for sorting and in fuel for transporting trash to the correct location. Non-recyclables that slip through the cracks reduce the overall efficiency of the recycling process. Many townships impose a fine for attempting to recycle non-recyclables — and rightly so.
All this means that when I go home, I cannot recycle a milk carton. Solo cups are not recyclable either. Caps of soft drink bottles must be removed. Yale only tells us: If it’s plastic, throw it in a blue bin. This is unacceptable for sustainability in the real world, and thus does Yalies a disservice.
Yale must do a better job of educating Yalies about which items are usually not recyclable. I suggest posting lists of typically non-recyclable plastics in publicly accessible areas. We will still recycle these at Yale, but this way, when we leave campus, we will know to inquire about these borderline cases before damaging our environment. Only then can Yale achieve its goal of educating the modern, sophisticated, sustainable graduate.
The writer is a senior in Branford College.