Student organizations join forces to raise awareness about campus waste
The plastic bottles that sit in cup holders of stationary bikes or on the sidelines of intramural basketball games at the rec center will look much the same in a few thousand years. That’s if they end up at the bottom of a landfill.
The Environmental Awareness Club is teaming up with Artists Unanimous to give students some perspective on what tossing their plastic water or energy drink bottles adds up to in the long run.
The organizations’ members have been collecting a month’s worth of bottles placed into the Wellness and Recreational Sports Complex’s recycling bins. They plan on turning the bottles into works of art to be unveiled during a rec center event honoring Earth Day April 17. The actual holiday falls on April 22.
With approximately 100 to 120 bottles accumulated every day, the Environmental Awareness Club estimates that the WRSC recycling bins generate 3,000 bottles per month.
“And we’re just counting the recycling spaces. We’re not counting the trash,” said senior Itzel Mora, a member of the EAC committee organizing the event. “The goal is to make people realize that we’re [producing] all this trash and just make them think.”
Students are reconstructing the plastic into eight sculptures of larger bottles, which will stand nearly 6 feet tall. The sculptures will then be filled with remaining plastic bottles collected from the building.
“We thought, what did we want the sculpture to say to the people seeing them?” said Xavier Castillo, vice president of Artists Unanimous. “And we agreed that we needed to do a little bit of a shock value. We needed to put the bottles in people’s faces…”
Club members hope to encourage fellow students to reduce the amount of plastic bottles they use, as well as educate them about the proper way to recycle what they do purchase.
Four University departments are currently responsible for on-campus recycling, which includes everything from plastic and paper to motor oil and hazardous waste.
In addition to an information table, the EAC will have a booth on site to be used for a photo petition. Students can take pictures of themselves with messages encouraging University administrators to follow in the footsteps of other colleges that have instituted policies to reduce campus waste.
Political science major Alexis Bay said that the Environmental Awareness Club hopes that the University will eventually develop a campus-wide recycling program and consider a ban on plastic bottles, which could be replaced with water refilling stations similar to the ones installed at the University of Texas at Austin.
“Once you build up enough awareness, little by little, it opens people to the idea of an alternative,” she said. “It would be rad to do that here, but because of the fact that for the most part, the UTPA community is not aware of this stuff, it would be difficult to push that initiative and gain support for it. But if we have these events, starting at the rec and moving forward to other buildings, it could create that momentum that could really help us shift the campus away from the waste in plastic.”