By: Virginia Riddle
Thiel students constantly pass recycling bins as they go to classes, clubs, and study sessions. Throwing recyclables into these containers is often encouraged, mainly due to the environmental perks. After all, the United States Environmental Protection Agency tells us that, “ Recycling just 10 plastic bottles saves enough energy to power a laptop for more than 25 hours.” That’s enough to keep a computer going for an entire all-nighter cram session… and then some! However, the process does not end with these blue bins. The reality is that maintaining a strong recycling program for the entire campus requires work from students and faculty alike.
Anna Reinsel, Professor of Environmental Science and Chemistry at Thiel College, explains that the recycling program has been on campus since before she came to Thiel in 2011, and has taken many forms over the years. The most recent work in restructuring the program was done by Chad Pakozdi in the summer of 2020. According to Pakozdi, students hired for a position in this program are assigned a building that they visit twice a week. There, they collect the recycling of every full bin of the designated area and deliver it to one of the main recycling dumpsters on campus.
While Reinsel confirms that the job comes with a small amount of pay, she finds the biggest benefit to be the fact that, “…they are doing something good for the college and for the planet.” Similarly, Pakozdi states, “It’s something unique to put on a resume as it goes beyond just being involved in a club. You’re actively trying to make a difference.” Reinsel is also hopeful that having workers who are students will help moderate the amount of trash that ends up in the recycling. She states that, “Hopefully the student workers will correct their peers to help the program… I’m hoping we can get some sort of energy about it so that it’s like a thing that we do… part of the culture.”.
This push for student involvement seems especially important, considering how it could grow to help those outside of the college. According to Reinsel, this program does not currently have a huge effect outside of the Thiel community. But, once the current system becomes strong enough, there are goals to start a composting program on campus. She explains, “Thiel could be a site for not only campus composting, but for community composting,”. She was hesitant to put a date on how long it would take to start up the program officially, as there would need to be an influx of student support. Reinsel made this clear in her exclamation, “You know who gets things going on campus? Students!”
In the end, the Thiel College recycling program is more than a background scene, or a work-study chore. It is an opportunity to give back to the world, and an avenue to generate a positive change in the community. As Pakozdi says, “It’s easy for us to act like we care. The program allows us to show we are acting on our thoughts by sacrificing one of the most valuable resources to a college student, time.”