As the snow begins to melt and more animals come out to play, the trash peeks through the snow like flowers do. Campus is full of debris, wrappers, Juul pods and cigarette butts from fall semester. It is more prominent now that snow is melting and students can see the mess left behind. We worry a lot about ourselves and keeping ourselves stable and healthy, but we have seemed to have forgotten about the world, keeping the world healthy. All the plastic pollution is a drastic issue and keeps becoming greater as the years progress. Students can walk down the streets in Keene and see plastic on the roads everywhere. This has been an issue for years, but could start damaging closer to home. In New Hampshire alone, “State’s businesses and households still pitch 6.5 million tons of garbage every year—enough to fill up Fenway Park 74 times. And compostable organics make up more than 30 percent of all that trash,” said Soil and Mulch Producer News. They also say New Hampshire “puts 13 percent of its food scraps in the waste stream.”
The most recent calculation of tonnage of waste in the U.S. was in 2015 with 262.4 million tons. That’s a lot of trash. Trash even on campus is trying to be controlled, but this can be hard if the students aren’t contributing. KSC has tried to make an impact to our waste production: We have taken away styrofoam all together, which is one of the worst forms of plastic pollution, because it never fully degrades. KSC has also been cutting down on paper usage. On top of that, we have implemented composting on campus. The graduation gowns are even made from recycled plastic. This is all great, but we can do more. Hoot N Scoot and Lloyds uses all plastic to-go ware and plastic bags. Students are still carrying around and purchasing plastic water bottles. The biggest problem is that these products are getting tossed outside, or getting thrown away in the trash. This builds up, and no one is really picking it up, but we need to start.
Recycling in Keene, however, isn’t as green as we would like to think. WMUR did a segment called Many Items Tossed in Recycling Bins End Up in Landfills, where they focus on Keene and how it’s recycling process works. They stated, “Waste management officials said some items that should be recyclable don’t get recycled because they’re not in the proper condition. And the United States recently lost its biggest customer for recyclable material, raising problems for the industry.” What they mean by this is that the water bottles that students think they are recycling are more likely than not thrown straight into landfills. This is because if the cap is still on and or there is liquid still present in the container, the workers aren’t allowed to touch it. Recycling in New Hampshire is still factory work and sorting is mostly done by hand. The metals get picked up by magnets then the rest falls into the landfill pile. All things recyclable are picked and sorted by the employees. WMUR says, “It’s different this year because recyclers lost their biggest customer, China. The country used to take it all, no matter how contaminated. But now, it will only accept recycling with a two or three percent contamination rate, which is unachievable because U.S. plants were never designed to get that level of purity.” The recycling facilities have had to be more conscientious about what they’re keeping and such.
To help cut down on plastic waste on campus, there are many things students can do. Some include returning plastic bags to stores in Keene or on campus; WMUR stated that Keene wants locals to return bags. Students can also pick up trash on campus when they see it (safely) or if it’s yours do the right thing and throw it away or recycle. Students can be more aware of the plastic they are buying that is not reusable. Instead of grabbing a plastic straw at the Hoot N Scoot, replace them with metal straws, which are very inexpensive. Students should resist buying plastic bottles of water and alternatively, carry around reusable water bottles. There is so much you can do, and it doesn’t take too much time or money. Focusing on the world and our waste production one step at a time can save us in the long run. Keep yourself healthy, but the world healthier.
Selena Legacy can be contacted at