Last year the city of Los Angeles rezoned waste service areas by ZIP Code, causing USC to switch from Athens to Republic Services, which requires the university to sort its recyclables on site.
With a different waste service, USC started implementing three-stream bins to separate recyclables in classrooms and lobbies. Now USC continues to move forward with new outdoor recycling bins throughout campus, starting with The Village and Ronald Tutor Campus Center.
Gina Whisenant, waste and recycling supervisor, points out that many people do not know that recyclables need to be clean and dry. With wet items being tossed in the bins, other items become easily contaminated and USC has to a pay fee.
“The way the city mandates work now is if you have more than 10 percent of contamination they will not pick it up as recycling, it will be picked up as trash,” said Whisenant.
Among the items that are safe to toss in recycling bins are plastic, glass and aluminum bottles as long as there are empty of liquids.
Olivia Pearson, co-executive director of the Environmental Student Assembly, hopes that students become more aware of what they toss in the recycling bins.
“These recycling bins are not just another trash can where you can put things,” said Pearson. “You should really make sure you’re trying to keep things separate because it is very important that we value our materials and recycle them, so we can get the most use of them.”
A positive behavior Pearson has seen is at Everybody’s Kitchen. The dining hall has a three-way stream between compostable, recyclable and landfill materials. Since she first audited the dining hall, she has witnessed students be more aware of where their items go.
As Pearson, a senior environmental engineering major, finishes her educational career at USC she hopes that the future members of the Trojan family are aware of their waste.
“My hope is that we really increase the education and importance of recycling and making sure that we are limiting our waste production,” said Pearson.
Marcela Valdivia is a journalism graduate student at USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. She focuses on telling stories about the Latino community and has her own podcast called Successful Voices with Marcy. Find her on Instagram @Marcela__Valdivia.